As part of the Riverlink Concert Series, the Singer-Songwriter Festival brought four performers to the venue at the edge of the Mohawk River in Amsterdam last Saturday.
The fest saw the return of host Michael Eck showcasing some of the rising talent in local singer-songwriters. First up was M.R. Poulopoulos, one-half of the acoustic duo Palatypus, who featured several songs from his recent solo debut, “Greenhorn,” as well as new and older songs.
“Sweepin’,” a song about doing chores, was followed by “Hummingbird” and “Reflection.” Polopolous told the audience that old family sayings sometimes wound up in his songs, such as “picking the pepper dish for fly poop” in “Pepper Dish.”
These were followed with “Between You and Me” from “Greenhorn,” which had finger-picking style and changes reminiscent of “4 + 20” by Stephen Stills. He revisited his Palatypus days with “Just a Shadow,” in which he sang, “Love can deceive and fool, love is a sinful tool.”
Matt Durfee, the other half of Palatypus, was up next although the two did not play together. “Cross the big river and get off on the jealous side,” he sang. “Keep throwing flowers at me until they’re gone.”
“I’ve got no website, no album, just some songs for you to hear,” Durfee said. He explained that the next song, “Drowsy Tigers Behind Straw Twine,” was the result of a songwriting challenge. He followed that with a song that speculated about Elvis, the devil and temptation together in a room. “We all heard about Elvis and
how that his indulgent soul up and left his pelvis,” Durfee sang. “Disappointment is a word you’ll never know.”
“It comes as no suprise that it comes with no consequence,” Durfee sang in a quiet number between trains. “Nothing much means anything.”
“It’s A Good Life And Easy To Bear” was followed by “Kid Gloves,” a song heard on radio station WEXT. “Take off your kid gloves and let me feel your nails,” Durfee sang, before revisiting Palatypus for “A Million Drinks.” “Anything half as good as you is good as gold,” he sang. “Come back to me and I’ll be a rich man.”
Next, Eck introduced Tom Lindsay, his musical partner in Lost Radio Rounders. It Lindsay’s first performance of original material since 1988, back when Eck and Lindsay were in the band Chefs of the Future. For most of Lindsay’s set, Eck accompanied him on mandolin.
Lindsay began with what he called a naive song from 30 years ago, “The Prettiest Girl I’ve Ever Seen.” He followed with a mix of covers, including John Denver’s “Country Roads” and John Fogarty’s “Lodi,” both of which were big influences on his own songwriting. “I’ve been down the big river, and there’s nothing for me there,” Lindsay sang in his own “Big River.” “I’ll come home if you want me.”
The two played an uptempo re-arrangement of the old gospel song, “I Am The True Vine,” followed by an original ballad, “Long Is The Day.” “Of lightning born, a gift of the thunder,” Lindsay sang. “Hidden by smoke, hidden by time.”
The duo also revisited their Chefs days with the song “Man In The Desert” as another train passed. Noting that the Chefs didn’t have the hard edge that some of the punk-era bands sported, Lindsay explained, “We didn’t hate our parents.”
Nonetheless, Lindsay did have some unusual material, including “The Cold Man,” about a dead man who was discovered trapped inside a refrigerator. “Someone made a big mistake,” he sang. “They figured me to be a runaway.” He also sang one of a series of songs about Lake George called “Canada Street”: “Just another plastic playground, just a fantasy town.”
Lindsay finished with a couple of Eck-penned songs, including one involving the rituals of the Aztecs who cut out the hearts of their sacrifices: “You’re painted on my eyelids like some ancient art,” he sang. “All I have is an Aztec heart.”
Eck’s own solo set included several songs from his recent CD, “In My Shoes,” that has also received regular airplay on WEXT. “You’re the mountain, you’re the legend, you’re the king,” he sang in one. In another: “Till that time it is still a crime to set everyone else on fire.”
The passing trains – which numbered at least nine throughout the fest – provided many opportunities for reference in songs and stories. Eck talked about growing up near trains and described the different kinds that had passed by that evening. The song, “Date Nail”, he said, was about the date stamped on a railroad spike to indicate when the railroad ties were laid.
Some of Eck’s family members were in attendance, but he sang a couple of songs for two who weren’t: “Black Shoes” for his daughter and “Lillie’s Song” for his wife.
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson