Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell
Return to the Landmark’s Stage
It wasn’t the first or even the second return visit to Landmark’s Jeanne Rimsky Theater for either Lucy Kaplansky @LucyKaplansky or Richard Shindell @RShindell. The musicians had performed there on numerous occasions in the past – both separately and together. The evening of November 21, 2015, however, was their first Port Washington performance as The Pine Hill Project.
Kaplansky and Shindell have been singing together for 25 years (Kaplansky sang back up on Shindell’s first album.) Both performers instantly recognized the harmonious pairing of their voices, and over the last quarter century have recorded together, and backed each other up repeatedly. The Pine Hill Project is their latest joint collaboration, but certainly not their first. In 1998, Kaplansky, Shindell and Dar Williams (another Landmark favorite, scheduled to return on December 19, 2015) came together briefly as the “supergroup” Cry, Cry, Cry and released a superb self-titled CD of cover songs. [If you have not heard this CD, I can’t recommend it enough. It is one of my “desert island” choices.]
Both Kaplansky and Shindell are excellent songwriters in their own right, but they came together as The Pine Hill Project in order to cover the great songs of other people. “We each brought songs to the table,” said Kaplansky, in an email interview. “Larry Campbell [the producer] too, and we went through a whole lot of songs that we liked and thought would work great, but we weren’t thrilled when we actually sang them. Richard brought a few I’d never heard that I fell in love with (e.g. Open Book, Rain Just Falls), and somehow we were able to finally find 11 that we were thrilled about singing.” The CD was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and the musicians were amazed at the generosity of their supporters. “We were amazed by the outpouring,” said Kaplansky, “we still are. We had no idea that would happen.” The result was the CD Tomorrow You’re Going – a surprising collection of covers.
For their Port Washington performance, Kaplansky and Shindell were joined by guitarist Mark Shulman who provided excellent electric guitar accompaniment. During the performance, Shindell played guitar and sang, and Kaplansky sang and played (at various times) guitar, piano, and mandolin. The performers played much of Tomorrow You’re Going, including Gillian Welch’s “Wichita,” David Halley’s “Rain Just Falls” and a fabulous version of Nick Lowe’s “Battlefield.”
But they really hit a high point with a gut-wrenching performance of the beautiful Dave Carter song, “Farewell to Saint Dolores.”
Towards the middle of the performance, they each played a few fan favorites from their own (separate) catalogs, including Kaplansky’s lovely autobiographical “Ten Year Night” and Shindell’s tongue in cheek revenge song – “Are You Happy Now.” Another Shindell favorite was “Transit” from his Somewhere Near Paterson CD. Kaplansky took a solo turn on the piano to perform “Brooklyn Train” from the 2004 CD The Red Thread.
After playing songs from their individual careers, they played two wonderful, but very Pine Hill Project songs. The first was a sort of country/folk version of U2’s “The Sweetest Thing,” but it was the second that really took my breath away – Glenn Patscha’s “Such Sweet Angels” with the beautiful, soaring harmonies that only Kaplansky and Shindell can produce.
The audience cheered until the performers returned for their encore. The first encore was one that they hadn’t recorded or even performed together before. In fact, the performers claimed they’d rehearsed it in the Landmark stairwell leading to the balcony prior to the show. (“Great acoustics” said Kaplansky.) The song – “Rain” by the Beatles – was spectacular because of the performers’ amazing harmonies. They closed with Greg Brown’s “Lord I Have Made You a Place in My Heart,” (which they had recorded with Dar Williams on the Cry, Cry, Cry CD).
Some people are meant to sing together. Their voices just blend perfectly. Think Lennon and McCartney, The Carpenters, the Indigo Girls, and you’ll get the idea. Kaplansky and Shindell fall into that category and hopefully will continue to make beautiful music together – whether it’s theirs or the music of others.
The next in Landmark’s Folk series is Dar Williams on December 19th. For ticket information visit www.landmarkonmainstreet.org
Event: November 21, 2015
Previous review: Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky (2010)
Photography: Steven Sandick