On Stage: Paxton, McCutcheon celebrate ‘Together’ at Sellersville

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon

When Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon perform together on October 26 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com), they bring together years of professional music experience – Paxton (61 years) and McCutcheon (53 years).

They are touring in support of its new album, “Together,” which was released on October 13 via Appalseed Songs.

The longtime friends came together as songwriters for the first time during lockdown. This debut collaboration (the second this month from Paxton who has also teamed up with C. Daniel Boling) is a response to the world around them with the music ranging from complex arrangements to more simple folk tunes.

When two of folk music’s most beloved and prolific songwriters join forces, the result is songs about history, the news, baseball, cowboys, America, love, the remembered, the forgotten. The music features McCutcheon’s familiar crew of supporting musicians (fiddle wizard Stuart Duncan, keyboardist Jon Carroll, bass player JT Brown, as well as special guest, Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy). The arrangements are compelling, the production pristine, and the performances stunning.

“Tom Paxton just turned 86 and he’s still writing great stuff,” said McCutcheon, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Rochester, New York.

“He’s discovered Zoom and he’s writing with five or six people a week. We write together every Monday at 2 p.m.

“What was the catalyst for us writing together? Part of it was boredom and using this technology for more than meetings.

“We write together really well. It’s really easy. And a lot of it is just us hanging out. So, we decided to write an album – just Tom and me.

“Now, we have a long weekend to promote this album, ‘Together.’”

The two folk music veterans are performing on October 26 at the Sellersville Theater; October 27 at The 8th Step in Schenectady, N.Y.; October 28 at the Elkton Music Hall in Elkton, Maryland; and October 29, the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.

“We said – let’s do these four gigs and see how it goes. We’ll put a couple chairs on stage, talk about everything and play some music. It’s got a lot of spirit.

“We recorded the album last spring, and it came out last Friday (October 13). I recruited guys I usually work with, and we recorded the album at Bias Studio in Springfield, Virginia. I’ve been using that studio for 40 years.

“It took a lot of work, but it was really fun. Tom’s vocals were so remarkable. Tom said it’s his best album out of the 66 he’s done.”

Paxton is beloved by area folk music fans. He played his first Philadelphia Folk Festival almost 60 years ago.

When the veteran singer-songwriter played the PFF in 2015, he announced that it will be his final tour. He was touring in support of his album “Redemption Road” — his 61st album.

Paxton, at that time, said, “Everything is all right. I’ve been writing like a maniac. And I’m doing about 70 shows this year which is twice my usual. I’m not retiring. I’m just going to stop touring. I’ll stick to one-shot deals and festivals. Touring is really grueling.

“With me, it’s only a one-man show. But I have guitarists playing with me — different guitarists wherever I play around the world.”

As far back as the early 1960s, Paxton has been involved with causes that promoted human rights, civil rights and labor rights. In 1963, Paxton and a group of other folk musicians performed and offered moral support to striking coal miners in Hazard, Kentucky.

“I’ve written a lot of political songs over the years,” said Paxton. “But I would never presume that my songs have changed anything. Hopefully, they’ve reinforced how people feel.”

With a catalog that dates back to his 1964 debut album “Ramblin’ Boy,” Paxton has hundreds of songs from which to draw when making up his set list for a show.

McCutcheon has released almost 50 albums since his debut album, “How Can I Keep from Singing?,” in 1975.

His most recent albums are “To Everyone In All The World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger,” “Cabin Fever: Songs from the Quarantine,” in 2020, “Bucket List” in 2021 and “Leap,” in 2023.

Prior to the Pete Seeger tribute disc in 1975, McCutcheon had already released seven albums in the 2010s — “Passage” (2010), “Fine Times at Our House” (2010), “This Land: Woody Guthrie’s America” (2102), “22 Days” (2013), “Joe Hill’s Last Will” (2015), “Trolling for Dreams” (2017) and “Ghost Light” (2018).

“Albums — it seemed like I was popping then out every year,” said McCutcheon, during a previous phone interview from his home in Smokerise, Georgia. “Being involved in recording and putting out CDs is like tilting at a windmill.

“But I still like making full albums – with full spectrum sound. I still have fun in the studio. We always put some ear candy in – like a kick drum going down to 80 hertz.

“In 2015, I did an album for the 100th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill and in 2012, I did an album for the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie. Then, I did the 100th birthday album for Pete Seeger. I’m at a point where I get to do a project that is interesting to me – commerce be damned.

“People want to know about people like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. These are not museum pieces. I’m at a point where I’m at the fringe of music. I can do a bible album like ‘Sermon on the Mount’ or do an album like ‘Mightier Than the Sword’ where I get together with authors. It’s never a case of — I’ve written 15 new songs and need to make an album.”

McCutcheon is a Renaissance Man – one who prefers the rustic vibe of rural America to the pomp of a royal court. He is one of America’s most respected and loved folksingers.

As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen different traditional instruments including piano, guitar, auto harp and banjo.  He is one of the world’s master players of the hammered dulcimer.

“For these shows with Tom, we had to choose from more than 100 songs,” said McCutcheon. “When Tom and I got together, it was like – wow, we’re in the same room. It feels good.”

Video link for Tom Paxton – https://youtu.be/JF-MjfT07Xw.

Video link for John McCutcheon – https://youtu.be/Qi96Sq3zSYg.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on October 26 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $29.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are The Harry Chapin Band on October 27, Lads from London on October 28, Slaid Cleaves and Robby Fulks on October 28, and Sam Bush on October 29.

On October 28, the focus will be on the Netherlands when Franklin Music Hall (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, www.bowerypresents.com) on October 28 hosts “San Holo Presents Existential Dance Music” featuring Holo, DROELOE and OddKidOut.

Holo is a Dutch DJ, musician, record producer and composer from Zoetermeer, Netherlands. His real name is Sander van Dijck but is primarily known as San Holo.

He gained international recognition for his remix of Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode”, which currently has over 262 million views on YouTube.

Holo is no stranger to the Franklin Music Hall. He headlined a show there in November 2018 when he was touring North America in support of his debut album which is appropriately titled, “album 1.”


DROELOE is an electronic music project formed by Dutch musician Vincent Rooijers in 2016. Hein Hamers was also part of the project until his departure in 2020.

On October 21, 2020, Hamers announced his departure from the project. A month later, an anthology album, “A Matter of Perspective,” was released.

On May 19, 2023, a new single, “Feeble Games,” was released, followed by the announcement of a North American tour. On June 17, DROELOE announced his debut solo album, “The Art of Change,” with “Feeble Games” being its first single. It was followed by the release of a new single, “Landscape”, featuring Banji.

Next up was a live video on June 30. Shortly after, a third single was released, “Decision,” followed by the fourth single, “Downside Up”, featuring Transviolet on August 11. A fifth single, “Foolish Fish,” was released on September 8. The full album dropped on September 15.

“I started making the new album over a year ago,” said Rooijers, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Secaucus, New Jersey.

“I was out on the Unexpected Odyssey Tour, so I recorded in a lot of different places – mostly on my laptop on the road – sitting outside or in a coffee shop.

“I record mainly on Ableton. I used to record vocals on Logic, but I found that I could do just as well on Ableton.”

Rooijers’ love of electronic dance music goes back to his very early days.

“I started doing loops when I was seven,” said Rooijers. “Both my parents were musicians – both were drummers.

“When I was 11, we moved to Eindhoven. When I was 14, I started making beats and loops for myself. I was already interested in trance music. I thought of it more as a game than as music.

“Later, I was rapping in Dutch. That was a project that didn’t go anywhere. DROELOE, which means ‘wasted’ in Dutch, was more a culmination of my interests.”

Rooijers and Hamers met at the Utrecht School of Arts around 2014. Rooijers was studying music and composition, while Hamers was studying visual arts. They worked on art projects at school and made music in their spare time. The project began as a joke.

According to Hamers, “We were just joking around. That kind of got really serious really quickly so…”

Their inspirations include Hybris, Culprate, Clark, Camo and Krooked, Noisia, Still Woozy, Anderson .Paak, Sufjan Stevens, Bibio and Avishai Cohen.

In May 2017, they collaborated with Holo for the song “Lines of the Broken.” The next month, they released “Jump” featuring Nevve, which was then used in August in an advertisement for the Apple Watch. In 2019, they started their tour, “The Choices We Face,” in support of their EP of same name.

For the last three years, Rooijers has been on his own.

“I use a lot of trumpet and small percussive elements – and my own voice,” said Rooijers. “I like things organic so I never use synthesizers.

“In my shows on this tour, I’m playing a lot from the new album – and also a lot of old songs. It’s a 90-minute medley of old and new songs.”

Video link for DROELOE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30M_C0m9hyg&ab_channel=DROELOE

The show at Franklin Music Hall on October 28 will start at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $29.50.

As usual, blues will also be on the menu at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) this weekend.

The main attractions this weekend at Jamey’s are Vakili Band and Max Kaplan on October 27 and the Dukes of Destiny on October 28.

The Dukes of Destiny are headlining on Saturday evening and it’s a match made in blues heaven.

Jamey’s has become the area’s top showcase for regional and national blues acts – a destination for blues band’s tour schedule and a Mecca for area blues fans.

The Dukes of Destiny, who have been treating fans to live performances of top-flight blues and soul music for almost three decades, are back in action with a lineup built around John Colgan-Davis (harmonica, vocals) and AC Steel (guitar, vocals).

“We are super happy to return to one of the region’s best places to listen to music,” said Colgan-Davis. “Jamey’s House of Music is a place with a great sound system, a wonderful staff, good and freshly prepared food, and a comfortable vibe, similar to the old coffeehouses I played in and went to when I first started playing. We love this place, and we invite you to join us for our return.”

About a year-and-a-half ago, the Dukes’ lineup went through a major change when vocalist Aryl Wolters retired from the band.

As a result, Colgan-Davis had a dual role with the Dukes.

“Now that Arlyn is gone, I’m doing the majority of the singing,” said Colgan-Davis. “I was singing before Arlyn so now it’s back to the roots.

In addition to performing at most of the clubs in the Tri-State area, the Dukes of Destiny have performed at the Pocono Blues Festival, the Waterfront Jam at Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing, the State Street Blues Stroll in Media, the Bucks County R’n’B Picnic, the New Jersey Folk Festival and the Longwood Gardens Summer Concert Series.

“For the past few years, we’ve had great years,” said Colgan-Davis back in 2019. “We played places we had never played before – like the Philadelphia Folk Festival. We also played places we really love like the Kennett Flash and the West Grove Friends Meeting.

“We played the Phoenixville Blues Festival and the Paoli Blues Festival. We really love playing the Kennett Flash. And, we love our Chester County crowd. They’ve been coming to see us play for 14-15 years.”

Chester County music fans and the Dukes of Destiny definitely have a love affair going on.

“We did the Turks Head Festival in West Chester a few years ago – and ‘Rhythm and Roots’ in Media,” said Colgan-Davis. “We love the Flash – the intimacy and the sound system. And we love what it stands for and what it means to Kennett Square.

“We love the people of Chester County and I really like the landscape of the area. It’s always a special place for us. Chester County gigs have the vibe of old coffee houses. We put out the energy and the audience give sit back to us.”

Audiences that like to get out of their seats and dance are a big part of the Dukes of Destiny live experience.

“We get all kinds of dancers at our shows,” said Colgan-Davis. “We’ve been playing a lot more festivals. We’re back on the festival circuit. I love playing festivals for a couple reasons. You get a whole bunch of people playing together. That takes me back to the 60s and the be-ins back then.

“Sun Ra had said the message that music is the healing force of the universe, and you feel that at festivals. And kids get to hear real music played by real people. With a band like us that plays off the crowd, a festival show is a real exciting thing.”

Colgan-Davis’s introduction to the blues came when he was in high school at Central High in Philadelphia and saw the Stones performing with Howling Wolf on the “Shindig” TV show. Howlin’ Wolf, whose real name was Chester Burnett, was an American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player who was one of the premier Chicago bluesmen.

“When I saw Howlin’ Wolf on that TV show, I jumped up and said — this is what I want to do,” said Colgan-Davis. “I started playing blues when I was 16. My dad gave me a grab bag for my birthday and a harmonica was in it.

“I started listening to blues records a lot — players like Muddy Waters and James Cotton. I was really into Chicago blues of the 1950s and 1960s when I started. Then, I got into guys like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. One of the first bands I played in was a Philly blues band called Sweet Stavin’ Chain.”

A while later, the Dukes of Destiny became the main musical vehicle for Colgan-Davis. At first, they played house parties in Germantown, generating word of mouth interest. A gig at the now-defunct Taker’s Cafe in Germantown launched their public career.

“The Dukes got together in the mid-1980s,” said Colgan-Davis. “Steve Brown started the band, and it began with that gig at Taker’s Café. Steve died of pancreatic cancer in 2000 and I’ve been the leader ever since. Steve has always been in my mind. We did a tribute concert to him a few years ago and we still do some of his favorites in our set.

“We have a whole range of music in what we can play — everything from Chicago blues to old-school soul. What’s great about the Dukes is that we’re a band. We use each other’s strengths.”

Video link for the Dukes of Destiny – https://youtu.be/j5fM0sugB5w.

The show at Jamey’s House of Music will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings. Another weekly event at the venue is the “THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM” featuring the Dave Reiter Trio with guest vocalist Khadijah Renee.

“Into the Woods” is a comedy-driven musical with a cast of crafty and funny characters. It is a little challenging for audiences – until they realize that trying to follow four fairy tales blended together is useless.

If you want to see a very good live performance of this show, you have to act quickly.

“Into the Woods,” a comedy-driven musical with a cast of crafty and funny characters with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, is running now through October 29 at the Candlelight Dinner Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1987, winning three Tony Awards including Best Score and Best Book. It has since been produced throughout the world and was adapted into a major motion picture in 2014.

Following a sold-out New York City Center Encores! run in May 2022, the production transferred to Broadway as a limited engagement beginning July 2022, marking its first time on Broadway in 20 years. Following tremendous critical acclaim and audience demand, it was extended twice and concluded its Broadway run on January 8, 2023.

The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella” and several others.

The musical “Into the Woods” debuted in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986 and premiered on Broadway on November 5, 1987, where it won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical in a year dominated by “The Phantom of the Opera” (1988).

The musical has since been produced many times, with a 1988 US national tour, a 1990 West End production, a 1997 tenth anniversary concert, a 2002 Broadway revival, a 2010 London revival, and in 2012 as part of New York City’s outdoor Shakespeare in the Park series.

James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim take everyone’s favorite storybook characters and bring them together for a timeless, yet relevant, piece… and a rare modern classic. The Tony Award-winning book and score are both enchanting and touching.

The story of “Into the Woods” follows a Baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. When the Baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a Witch’s curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse.

Everyone’s wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later with disastrous results. “Into the Woods” is a musically sophisticated show with the opportunity to feature actors who are adept at dark comedy.

“Into the Woods” is running now through October 29 at the Candlelight Theater with shows on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees.

Tickets, which include a buffet meal, beverages, dessert, and free parking, are $71.50 for adults and $33 for children.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is presenting Kendrah and Lauren’s Quintet on October 26, Motor City Revue on October 27, and Jeffrey Gaines on October 28.

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