October 22, 2010
Center for the Arts
72 S. Main Street
The man Rolling Stone magazine once called "the preeminent male singer/songwriter of the new folk movement" has traveled many miles since that movement began in the mid-1980s. John Gorka, who visits the Center for the Arts in Homer on October 22nd, has made eleven albums and toured at times over 150 nights a year since the magazine gave him that distinction.
Gorka was part of a re-emergence of the singer-songwriters, releasing his first album in 1987, in an era when Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman's work was hitting the radio airwaves. Godfrey Daniels is one of the oldest and most venerable music institutions in eastern Pennsylvania. A small neighborhood coffeehouse and listening room, it has long been a hangout for music lovers and aspiring musicians, and in the late 1970s, one of these was a young Moravian College student named John Gorka. Though his academic course work lay in philosophy and history, music began to offer greater enticements. Soon he found himself living in the club's basement and acting as resident M.C. and soundman, encountering legendary folk troubadours like Canadian singer/songwriter Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt. Their brand of folk-based acoustic music inspired him, and before long he was performing his own songs, mostly as an opener for visiting acts.
Gorka then started traveling to New York City, where Jack Hardy's legendary Fast Folk circle, a breeding ground for many a major singer/songwriter, became a powerful source of education and encouragement. Folk meccas like Texas' Kerrville Folk Festival, where he won the New Folk Award in 1984, and Boston followed, and his stunningly soulful baritone voice and emerging songwriting began turning heads. Those who had at one time inspired him — Vega, Bill Morrissey, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin, Shawn Colvin — had become his peers.
Windham Hill Records became aware of Gorka's voice and unique song-craft. His first album, I Know, was released on the label's High Street Records division and drew not only critical acclaim, but the attention of other contemporary artists. He went on to record five albums with the label before switching to Red House Records, which released his subsequent recordings. His songs have since been recorded or performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Griffith, Mary Black, and many more. Music critic George Graham wrote that Gorka's first album, "Immediately established him as one of the people to watch on the scene, with his warm voice and remarkable songwriting that ranged from the humorous to the poignant."
In a review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange, Roberta B. Schwartz said, "Contemporary folk music would not get the respect and attention it has today without a handful of truly great singer/songwriters like John Gorka…There was something about that distinctive baritone of his that pulled you in. And there was a great deal of wit mixed in with the wry sadness of the everyday experiences he wrote about. It was almost as if he were telling all of our stories." Through his subsequent albums, Gorka's multi-faceted songs gained increasing attention from critics and audiences across the country, as well as in Europe where his tours led him through Italy, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland and Germany. He has performed on Austin City Limits, Mountain Stage, and e-town, and his new song "Where No Monument Stands" is featured in the upcoming documentary Every War Has Two Losers.
One of Gorka's most notable achievements was his 2006 album Writing in the Margins, on which he had several guest vocalists, including Griffith, Alice Peacock, and Lucy Kaplansky. His complex songs on this album branched out beyond folk into pop, country, and soul and drew near universal critical praise. The Boston Globe said of him, "Gorka is widely heralded for the sophisticated intelligence and provocative originality of his songs."
In addition to his eleven albums, Gorka released a collector's edition box featuring a hi-definition DVD and companion CD called The Gypsy Life. Windham Hill has also recently released a collection of the singer's greatest hits from the label called Pure John Gorka. The busy singer-songwriter is playing a series of California and Colorado shows in the fall before coming to New York for his performance in Homer. Samples of Gorka's music can be heard at the Center's media player, www.center4art.org.
General admission tickets for Gorka's Saturday night performance are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, $10 for students with valid ID, and free for anyone under 18. Center members receive a 10% discount for admissions. Tickets can be purchased at Bev's Fashions and Origins in Homer, Jodi's Hallmark, Sheridan's fine Jewelry and First National of Dryden in Cortland, Ithaca Guitar Works in Ithaca, through the Center's website at www.center4art.org, or by phone at 607-749-4900. If available, tickets will be sold at the door on the night of the performance.
The Center Social Hour begins at 7 p.m., with wine and beer, desserts, coffee, and tea available. The event is sponsored by Economy Paving Company of Cortland. Other sponsors of the Fall Season include GeoLogic NY, Inc., The Tompkins Trust Co., Planck Road Magazine, and First Niagara Bank. The Ramada Inn is providing accommodations for the season. The Center for the Arts is located at 72 Main St. in downtown Homer, on the corner of Routes 11 and 90, just off Exit 12 on I-81.