When I lived in Greenwich Village in the mid-1970s, there was a group of young folksingers that I would listen to regularly. Now those singer/songwriters are the old guard keeping the tradition alive and promoting younger singers. Christine Lavin was one of my favorites during that time. She could be funny or serious and she has an absolutely lovely and sweet voice. On Wednesdays in September at Don’t Tell Mama’s backroom cabaret, Lavin has been performing with Don White and inviting special guests each week. White’s songs and stories are very funny and I’m glad he’s now doing the folk stuff fulltime. This past Wednesday’s special guest was another singer/songwriter that I adored when I was younger – David Massengill. Massengill is also a master at a humorous or serious song.
As soon as Lavin took the stage, I was transported back to my days hanging out in the Village. She introduced the celebrities in the audience, which included two Jeopardy champions. Also in the audience was Julie Gold, who wrote “From a Distance,” which was a big hit for Bette Midler. I actually heard Gold’s version first (on Vin Scelsa’s show on the radio with Lavin introducing it) and later fell in love with Nanci Griffith’s version before Midler recorded it. The biggest celebrity in the audience – if you went by Lavin’s introduction – was her dentist, who she recommended to everyone. Lavin did a few songs and had us laughing out loud. I would have loved to have heard some of her older stuff but she’s such a prolific songwriter that there’s always something new to hear.
Massengill was a friend to both Dave Van Ronk and Jack Hardy (oh the name dropping that goes on at folk concerts). As soon as he started playing his mountain dulcimer (a beautiful wooden instrument) and started singing I was 19 again. There was an ode to a dead mouse and a beautiful song about his mother. His last song was “My Name Joe,” which has been recorded by many people. Gold and I both clapped excitedly when he introduced the song.
White did a very funny song about children moving back into their parents’ house and read a hilarious section from his book about the differences between his Greek (mother) and Irish (father) families. He also had a lot to sing and talk about his mother.
Before the last song, Gold (singing from the audience) and Lavin sang words to the Jeopardy song – words about being a nerd in school but now making lots of money.
One of the Jeopardy champions and a young female singer/songwriter joined Lavin, White, and Massengill on stage for “Goodnight Irene.” There were old verses and new verses made up on the spot. The young woman sang about having to join everyone on stage when Lavin tells you to do so.
It was a fun evening and I hope not to wait such a long time to repeat.
By Carene Lydia Lopez