The Old And The New

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

One of Pacific Grove ’s best kept secrets may well be the music concerts hosted by the Disciples of Christ Church in its white Victorian building on Central Avenue .  Several times a year, Pastor Dan Paul opens the doors of his church in the evening to present concerts by artists such as Gene Parsons (The Byrds) and Meridian Green and Mary McCaslin.   The church provides a unique setting for the shows; its great acoustics are enhanced by a high-quality sound system, making for some intimate and memorable performances.  This coming Friday the theme of the evening will be English folk music, with performances by two UK recording artists. 

Pete Morton is currently on tour from the UK to promote his new album “Swarthmoor.”  The British folk scene is traditionally divided into two camps – those who favor contemporary singer-songwriters and those who prefer traditional songs. Morton is one of a number of British folk artists who are blurring the boundaries between the two genres.  Born in Leicester , England , his musical roots were far from the traditional folk scene.  He and his siblings sang in the church choir, received piano lessons and were encouraged to join brass bands, but the young Morton’s musical sights were set elsewhere – the emerging punk and new wave scene.  “I was into Elvis Costello, Bob Geldof and his lyrics with the Boomtown Rats, and things like that,” he said.  At age 14 he learned to play his brother’s guitar and began writing songs.  He soon formed a band called the Tone-Deafs, playing punk covers at shows at his school. 

Around the age of 16, however, he was introduced to a different kind of music, the protest songs of Bob Dylan and Buffy Sainte-Marie.  At the same time, he found a new place to play in the shape of local folk clubs.  “When I first started going to the folk clubs I was a Bob Dylan impersonator,” he recalls. “Then I came across traditional singers around the clubs.  These influenced my song writing and got me interested in traditional songs.”  Morton began to develop a set which combined traditional folk songs with his own compositions, and found an eager audience for his music.  In 1987, he moved to Manchester , where he signed to Harbourtown Records and released his first album “Frivolous Love.”  Since then he has released four other CDs including “Swarthmoor,” which comes out this month.

Also appearing on Friday evening is Jana Heller, currently a Monterey Peninsula resident, but who spent 15 years living and playing in the UK .  She released her CD “Laughing in Crime” on London-based Cycle Records, and has toured widely in the UK , Europe and United States .   If Pete Morton’s music blurs the boundaries between traditional and contemporary folk, then Heller’s blurs them between folk and rock. Her music was described by UK magazine Folk Roots as “Superbly atmospheric or full of thumping clout” and features “Virtuoso dulcimer, fine acoustic guitar, a moving powerful voice and really memorable songs with great hooks.”

Friday’s show promises to be an exciting evening of contrasting, yet complementary musical styles in a beautiful setting and should appeal to all fans of acoustic folk music.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, October 23, 2003

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