On Saturday, December 1, the vibrant Americana band Bobtown will perform for Flying Cat Music at the Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM). The ESRM is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Admission is $20 or $17 with reservations. Reservations are suggested. For information or reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-688-9453.
Bobtown is a hoot and a holler and a shiver down your spine. With five performers, four vocalists, and an eclectic assortment of instruments; Bobtown can set any room to rocking if the spirit moves them. But that’s just one of many spells Bobtown can cast on an audience. They can also be reverently Gospel, exquisitely retro Country, Pre-Civil War traditional, or simply downright spooky. Reviewers tie themselves in knots trying to pin down Bobtown’s genre.
CD Baby attempts to do Bobtown justice by invoking the full spectrum of roots music when they write, “Their material features elements of country, pop, R&B, bluegrass, rock, gospel and field hollers, but the group is most widely recognized for its strong emphasis on vocal arrangements and harmony.” Lucid Culture waxes more poetic describing Bobtown as, “mixing elements of country gospel, bluegrass and field hollers with an often macabre Nashville gothic tinge.” While Americana UK simply observes, “If you’re looking for acoustic, Gothic-folk-Americana kissed with gorgeous harmonies then look no further.”
For all of the sheer joy and flashes of off-beat humor that Bobtown delivers, (who else would elicit a glowing review about “charmingly creepy songs”) these are seriously skilled and deeply committed musicians. Their repertoire flows from several distinctive and highly talented songwriters who have collaborated together since 2010 when their first album was featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Together, they tap transcendent roots, with field hollers foremost among them. Field hollers were a vocal and percussive call-and-response music, thought to have pre-dated spirituals, which originated with African-American slaves working in the fields. Bobtown founder Katherine Etzel credits her fascination with field hollers to her experience as a youth working in Iowa bean and corn fields. Other band inspirations run the gamut from brooding Celtic ballads to the Andrews Sisters, building on the magic of the three superb female vocalists at the heart of Bobtown’s sound.
One Dutch reviewer, writing for Rootstime, calls Bobtown’s sound, “…ancient folk music for the 21st century” which it might well be, but that phrase fails to capture the deliciously dark humor that inhabits the lyrics of many Bobtown songs. That nod toward the macabre led one reviewer for NewFolkRadio to marvel that Bobtown can sometimes sound like children of the Carolina Chocolate Drops (the 2010 Grammy Award Winners for Best Traditional Folk Album) and other times like Children of the Corn (the young sect in Stephen King’s horror story that spawned a slew of frightful films).
The New York Music Daily described Bobtown as “eclectically haunting,” and called their most recent CD The History of Ghosts “a strong contender for best album of the year.” The History of Ghosts debuted at number nine on the national Folk DJ Chart in November 2014, and resided at number one for several weeks on the Roots Music Report. Acoustic Live Magazine lauded Bobtown for the, “typically impeccable harmonies” on The History of Ghosts, calling it “a superb third album from this group.” Ever since; fans, reviewers, DJ’s, and concert producers alike have eagerly awaited a follow up album from the band. Bobtown is now happy to report that their long-anticipated fourth album is virtually complete and due to be released shortly. Their concert this Saturday night in Phoenicia will feature a strong dose of brand new material from this effervescent band.
It is no coincidence that Flying Cat Music invited Bobtown to perform at the final show of the tenth season of their concert series in Phoenicia. While booking the 2018 schedule, it appeared likely this would be the final year for Flying Cat Music concerts and Bobtown was the band that they wanted to go out with. Though some uncertainties remain, it now seems more likely that Flying Cat will continue; but there still is no better way to celebrate a decade than with a Bobtown show.