FOLK SINGER JOHN GORKA
Shares & Strums His Stories
Among the Stacks at the Ringwood Library!

A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Folk rocker John Gorka returned to his native state to perform at the New Legacy Concert Series in Ringwood , New Jersey. Since 2002, the Library Series has showcased first class Americana, blues, rock and folk musicians. Gorka played to an attentive full house on Sunday, January 27, 2013.

John Gorka at Ringwood's New Legacy Msuic Series in 2013
John Gorka performing at the New Legacy Music Series in 2013.

John released his first record I Know in 1987 and it received positive reviews. Touring steadily through the years, Gorka built a solid following and eleven albums later he is still going strong. John tells his stories in a warm baritone voice and his lyrics are visual and vivid.

Before introducing John, Andrea Cahoon, the Library Director, greeted the crowd with thanks to donors, fans, volunteers and WFUV - all supporters of the New Legacy Concert Series. Gorka armed with an acoustic guitar opened his first set with "Outside." The song was about trying to get away from one's cares and making a change for the better. Sentiments that most could relate to. It was followed by "Where No Monument Stands" - a poetic cry for peace.

"I'm John and I will be your singer," proclaimed Gorka. John mentioned that he was from the garden state saying "it was good to be back in the land of my people". A fine introduction to "I'm From New Jersey" - a humorous piece complete with geographic references, stereotypes and strumming.

Gorka shared that he had started his music career playing at a coffee house in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His time in the steel state had influenced some of his songs including "The Land of the Bottom Line" - an insightful look at financial struggles and giving up freedom for a paycheck as expressed in the lyrics "trading the maybe for the sure". "Blue Chalk" as John explained was for friends who had made bad choices as told through reflective refrains.

Moving to the grand piano Gorka said he heard someone shout out for this one. "House in the Fields" was a sad but truthful song about farms being replaced by the suburbs with John declaring that "developers paid better than the corn".

Gorka mentioned that he had recorded Red Horse with Eliza Gilkyson and Lucy Kaplansky and he sang "If These Walls Could Talk" from that album. Joking that his first record came out in the late 1900's on vinyl format, John shared that the next song was about wanting to grow up to be a tree. Gorka appeared pleased when he realized that behind him was a window with trees backing him up and adding to his descriptive words about the cycle of trees.

"Flying Red Horse" was based on the idea of the Mobil Oil horse escaping and flying away and in some ways the tune was a call for freedom and individuality. John closed his first set with a song concerning lost love. The second set showcased fan's requests including "Oh Abraham" which melded ideas and images of Lincoln and the beat generation. Moving back to the piano and talking about his days in PA John recalled that his roommate worked shifts at a bakery and was a blues player who often did not know what time it was. The song captured the scenes of the mill town and the possible thoughts that the friend might have had.

Picking up a small instrument, John explained that it was a G-sharp guitar that was tuned 2 steps higher than a regular guitar. He jested that he was an old blues man at age 23 when he composed "Baby Blues" a mid-tempo tune about someone being gone. "Where The Bottles Break" was another anti-development tune with a subtle jab at The Donald. After finishing the track, Gorka commented that he wrote the song 20 years ago and it and the personality mentioned were still relevant today.

Before performing "Ignorance and Privilege" John said that he use to he consider himself an "outsider" but over time realized that he had more than most or as he sings "didn't know my way was paved". It was followed by "People My Age" a sort of folksy, funny but not necessary flattering tune on getting older. Gorka lightened the impact of his lyrics by pointing out that the audience was sitting under the young adult sign. John closed the set with a piece that showcased pretty picking and prose about long time love. The encore was a slow and somber song on the subject of death with the wise advice to measure a life by what was best.

After the show, as is often the case at the library, the artist was available to sign things and meet with fans. The New Legacy Concert Series provides a friendly and intimate place to enjoy music. Tiff Merritt is scheduled to play next at the library on March 10, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. with more artists to be announced soon.

Discography:
I Know (Red House, 1987)
Land of the Bottom Line (Windham Hill/High Street, 1990)
Jack's Crows (Windham Hill/High Street, 1991)
Temporary Road (Windham Hill/High Street, 1992)
Out of the Valley (Windham Hill/High Street, 1994)
Between Five and Seven (Windham Hill/High Street, 1996)
After Yesterday (Red House, 1998)
The Company You Keep (Red House, 2001)
Old Futures Gone (Red House, 2003)
Writing in the Margins (Red House, 2006)
So Dark You See (Red House, 2009)

Related Links: For more information on JOHN GORKA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - John Gorka | New Legacy Concerts

(Originally Published on January 29, 2013)

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