Aug. 26 2013 12:00 AM

Ten Pound Fiddle announces new season lineup

Birds of Chicago
Monday, Aug. 25 — In a familiar rite of fall, Lansing’s permanent floating ark of folk music, the Ten Pound Fiddle, announced its 2013-14 season Sunday, mixing familiar and less well known artists with local, national and international renown.

Singer-songwriter Jamie-Sue Seal, a Ten Pound Fiddle staple and spokeswoman for the series, said this year’s slate “broadens the umbrella” of the series. (See full schedule below.)

The first stretch of the season is Birds of Chicago on Sept. 20. The charismatic duo pairs two alumni of underground contemporary folk bands: Allison Rusell from Poorgirl and J.T. Nero from J.T. and the Clowns.

Seal said the duo would appeal to the college-age audiences Ten Pound Fiddle aggressively courts with its $5 student tickets.

“After all, the Ten Pound Fiddle started as an MSU organization,” Seal said. This is the series’ 37th year.

As usual, Ten Pound Fiddle mainstays will not be forgotten this season. Michigan-born singer, guitarist and mandolin player Claudia Schmidt, a favorite for years, will open the series Sept. 13 with Minnesota guitarist Dean McGraw.

Plenty of guitarists and fiddlers are on the slate, most notably dazzling guitarist and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon, a folk legend who has recorded scores of albums, on March 28.

Veteran country blues picker Andy Cohen shares a standout bill with 24-year-old phenomenon Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton Oct. 18. Cohen broke his mother’s heart many years ago when he told her he was going to write his master’s thesis in anthropology at Kent State on “how blues musicians use their thumb” and then do just that for a living.

“I saw [Paxton] for the first time about two years ago, and he’s really terrific,” Seal said.

Most of the shows are at the usual venue for the series, the Unitarian Universalist Church at 855 Grove St. in East Lansing, but two shows will be at the Creole Gallery in Old Town and three will be at The Avenue on Lansing’s east side.

The Avenue shows are big ones. “Party at the Avenue” (Nov. 1) will feature the Tia Imani Hanna Project with guitarist Elden Kelly and percussionist Carolyn Koebel, along with three other groups. On March 14, The Avenue will host a St. Patrick’s Day party with Celtic rockers The Lash.

The 12th annual Mid-Winter Singing Festival Jan. 31 at the Hannah Community Center is the biggest extravaganza of the year, with Virginia harmonizers Robin and Linda Williams, folksinger Joel Mabus, and Ysaye Barnwell from the Grammy-winning a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Seal’s own annual baby, the acid-tipped Un-Valentine’s Show (“Heartbreak, Dysfunction and Revenge”), comes to Ten Pound Fiddle this year for the first time. Seal has handled the project on her own for the past four years, but this year Ten Pound Fiddle booker Sally Potter all but ordered her to bring it into the Ten Pound Fiddle fold.

Seal promised an antidote to the Hallmark treacle. “It’s not really for kids,” she said. “I call it light blue comedy. There are some killings and revenge.”

Seal also singled out concerts by folk legends Tom Chapin (Feb. 21) and David Francey (Nov. 15) as standouts. Francey burst onto the folk scene from Canada in the last decade.

Another umbrella-stretcher is Big Bad Gina (Oct. 11), an all-female contemporary folk-rock group from Arkansas that’s taking the Southern festival scene by storm.

“It’s not going to be something our traditional audience will particularly love, but it’s good women’s folk rock that’s got punch behind it,” Seal said.

Seal said the Ten Pound Fiddle series is blessed with supportive audiences, with 75 to 100 people at each show, sometimes spiking to 250 or even 400 at the Hannah Center when the massive Mid-Winter Singing Festival hits.

Also new to Ten Pound Fiddle this year are four spring events at MSU’s new Community Music School facility on Hagadorn Road, including a Celtic fiddle festival April 25.

Seal said there will probably be more events at the newly renovated MSU venue in coming years.

2013-14 Ten Pound Fiddle Schedule
(All dates are Fridays except Saturday, April 12)
Sept. 13:  Claudia Schmidt with Dean McGraw
Sept. 20:  Birds Of Chicago
Sept. 27:  Anne Hills and Michael Smith
Oct. 4:  James Keelaghan and Jez Lowe
Oct. 11:  Big Bad Gina
Oct. 18:  Andy Cohen and Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton
Oct. 25:  Joel Mabus
Nov. 1:  Party at The Avenue featuring The Tia Imani Hanna Project w/Elden Kelly & Carolyn Koebel, The Springtails (Andy & Julianna Wilson), The Crane Wives, Who Hit John?
Nov 8:  Anniversary Celebration of Lady Of The Lake (30th) and Mustard's Retreat (40th)
Nov 15: David Francey
Dec 6: “Christmas LUV” with the Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle
Dec 13: Holiday Sing hosted by Sally Potter
Jan. 17: May Erlewine, Rachael Davis and Stella!
Jan. 24: Reginald Robinson
Jan. 31: “12th Annual Mid-Winter Singing Festival” with Ysaye Barnwell from Sweet Honey In The Rock, Lake Effect, Robin & Linda Williams and Joel Mabus
Feb. 7:  “An Evening with Frank Youngman”
Feb. 14: “The Un-Valentine’s Show — Songs & Tales Of Unforgiveness, Heartbreak, Dysfunction & Revenge” with Jamie-Sue Seal, John Latini & Dave Boutette
Feb. 21: Tom Chapin
Feb. 28: Connie Kaldor
March 7: “Songs Of The Carter Family” hosted by Jim Hall & Cindy Morgan with Red Tail Ring and John Mikelsavage
March 14: St. Patrick’s Day Party and singalong with The Lash at The Avenue
March 21: Holly Near
March 28: John McCutcheon
April 4: Tim Eriksen & Trio de Pumpkintown
April 11: Sultans Of String “Fiddle Festival” at Community Music School
April 12: Sultans Of String Children’s Concert at Community Music School
April 25: Celtic Fiddle Festival with Kevin Burke, Christian Lemaitre and Andre Brunet at Community Music School
May 2: Ann Reed and Dan Chouinard for Annual Community Sing