John Gorka, a Leading Voice in Contemporary Folk, at Grunin Center

Jan 16, 2018
Source: Ocean County College’s Grunin Center for the Arts John Gorka with special guest Amilia K. Spicer January 20 at 8:00 pm.

John Gorka and special guest Amilia K. Spicer will be performing at Ocean County College’s Grunin Center for the Arts in Toms River on Saturday, Jan. 20, in a show that kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased online at grunincenter.org, by phone at 732-255-0500, at the box office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at the door, which opens at 7:30 p.m.

Haven’t heard of John Gorka? Then you’re not tuned into the “New Folk Movement,” the après-rock genre that replaced the folk of the 1950s and 1960s, represented by the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio with folks such as Suzanne Vega, Cliff Eberhardt, Shawn Colvin, Lucy Kaplansky and the incredible Virginia-based band with the incongruous name of Eddie from Ohio. Way back in 1991 no less of an authority than Rolling Stone called Gorka its “preeminent male singer-songwriter.”

Gorka has toured extensively in both the U.S. and Europe, has released more than a dozen studio albums, was, along with Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson, a member of the folk supergroup Red Horse from 2010 through 2014, and is known for his musical compositions, sometimes tender and sometimes disturbing lyrics – “I’m the darkness in your daughter; I’m the spot beneath the skin; I’m the scarlet on the pavement; I am the broken heart within” – and his solid baritone.

One question looms large. Will Gorka, a Jersey native who now calls Minnesota home, sing “I’m from New Jersey” on Saturday night?

I’m from New Jersey, I don’t expect too much/If the world ended today, I would adjust 

I’m from New Jersey, no, I don’t talk that way/I watched too much TV when I was young 

I’m from New Jersey, my mom’s Italian/I’ve read those mafia books, we don’t belong

And so on. In other words, can New Jersey residents laugh at themselves?

Spicer, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania, was lured by the glamour of Hollywood, where she hoped to make it not as an actress, but as a director. Once in Los Angeles, however, she gradually swung toward music and by the mid-1990s was performing locally in a band. In 2000 she recorded her debut album and now splits her time between the City of Angels and Austin, Texas.

That latter city, along with a penchant for wearing cowboy hats, should provide a tip to her musical style. There’s more than a dollop of country in her songs, delivered with a husky voice that is perfect for her genre. —R.M.

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