Folk Folks

Cosy Sheridan And Her Friends D Squared Accentuate The Positive.
By Molly Who

ONE SURE THING this Saturday night is the promise of an acoustic evening rich with lyrical intelligence and musical humor at the Southwest Center for Music. The delightful Cosy Sheridan appears with singer/songwriter T.R. Ritchie in the headliner spot.

Music Opening the show is Don Charles and Deb Gessner (a.k.a. "D squared"), bringing their distinct expression to the stage. The offerings of these four friends and rising stars mark the final stretch of acoustic performances at the center, which has been sold to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra for rehearsal space.

Sheridan is sure to shine, with smooth and practiced guitar playing, a singing voice that sweetly defies her rougher speaking voice, and a magic bag of songs on topics ranging from ballads on the state of relationships to jazzy commentary on government spending.

This is not another folk singer with a soapy box, however. "I don't want to bring my hammer," Sheridan says.

Instead, she brings an undeniably refreshing charm to the stage. Her politics are delivered with a sprite-like, humorous sparkle. If Sheridan's ever accused of hammering a point home, it is only because her deft use of metaphor provided the thrust.

Others are noticing the impact of her talents. Sheridan is a winner of Kerrville's prestigious New Folk Award, and that, combined with a Telluride Bluegrass Festival Troubador Award, places the eyes of acoustic music fans and critics upon her. With three albums to her credit, and the recent release of One Sure Thing, a live CD recording, Sheridan is rapidly becoming a veteran of studios and stages across the country. One Sure Thing is a taste of the verve and vivacity that concert-goers can expect from her on-stage performance.

"If you show up with some notes and an outline and you open yourself up to whatever that moment wants, something quantum or religious happens, and you're going to add something to the world," she says. My desire is to be in the room in the moment. I think, therefore I'm contributing to the world.

"The audience gives you palpable energy. With a good audience you find what you say is much more interesting--200 sets of gray matter giving you their energy--you've been augmented."

The audience-as-community ideal has been popularized by acoustic well-knowns such as Greg Brown and Leo Kottke. Sheridan's take is decidedly sincere:

"There's a way to take a group of people and uplift them. A good preacher sends you out feeling more empowered. The over-abiding process at work here is that you are not a small random piece in the water pounding against the rocks."

Originally from New Hampshire, Sheridan made the journey west in 1994, and now resides in Utah. She's currently working on songs for another album and looking into taking a college correspondence course in comparative religion.

"I don't have a lot of skills other than my guitar and music skills," she says. "Religion has always interested me. And, having been in therapy for so long, well, I think I could be a transpersonal therapist."

Sheridan's songs reflect the full spectrum of human pursuit. As she notes, "Life is full of things like wondering whether there's a god and how to get rid of your yeast infection." That approach, coupled with a sincere dedication to the idea that music--particularly folk music--doesn't have to be about pain, makes for an amusing approach. Sheridan spent a lot of time fighting the "whole waif persona: the underfed, miserable female performer--as if you're not authentic if you're not in pain. There's got to be a way to be creative and be abundant about it."

Cosy Sheridan seems to have found that way.

Opening act Don Charles and Deb Gessner share Sheridan's love of community and philosophy.

"Our job is to paint, make pictures," Charles says. "We deal with musical texture a lot. That means you have to leave space. We're less about hot licks than wondering--are we painting with the notes?"

Indeed they are, and proof of this can be found on their first release, Matter of Life and Death, a poetic and elegant production true to Charles' concept of musical texture. That texture is created by the careful blending of harp, guitar, tenor banjo, mandola, concertina, and Gessner and Charles' nicely matched vocals. A particular strength is Charles' songwriting, well-demonstrated by this passage from "Row," one of the most popular songs on the album:

"From the snowmelt in the Rockies/From the San Juan and the Green/The Colorado herds her children/Like souls into the stream..."

Like pal Sheridan, Charles is into his politics, but not pounding hammers. Certainly songs like "Row" have an environmental theme, but, he says, "We don't get lumped into the environmental artist category, we're not strident. I'm not interested in putting over my beliefs, I'm interested in revealing my point of view about something."

Charles and Gessner are in the process of changing their performance name to D squared. "I got tired of being called Don Gessner and Deb got tired of being called Deb Charles. People always turned it around."

D squared has a new release in the works with the intriguing title Big Sky Full of Dumb Stars. Charles describes the CD as a "personal cosmography," and feels it may be richer in imagery than the first album.

Plans for a tour will follow the April Fool's Day debut of Big Sky.

Cosy Sheridan and D squared perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 18, at the Southwest Center for Music, 2175 N. Sixth Ave. Advanced tickets for Saturday's show are available for $9, with a $1 discount for TKMA, TFTM and KXCI members, available at Hear's Music, Antigone Books, Zip's University, Loco Music or by phone at 327-4809. Tickets can also be purchased for $10 at the door. For information, call 327-4809 or 884-1220. TW

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