- CHARITY BENEFIT
The iconic folksinger continues to mesmerize her audience.
Reviewed by: Sandi Durell
Looking svelte, long and lean in a black satin slip gown with a shimmering long jacket, long white hair flowing, the 1960s came alive as Judy Collins opened the evening with “Chelsea Morning,” this her sixth year at the Café Carlyle. There aren’t many who can claim 53 years of performing and still going strong. Her recent PBS special filmed at the Metropolitan Museum, is an on-going tribute.
With guitar in hand and musical director Russ Walden on the piano, the evening unfolded into a compilation of her life’s work. Her soprano is still clear as a bell, her delivery simple, direct, unembellished. The daughter of a blind singer, she knew and loved music from the time she was a young child. But at 14, she was smitten with folk music after hearing it for the first time – - her new gurus Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, John Denver, Jimmy Webb.
As she speaks, she’s constantly tuning her guitar (somewhat distracting) but necessary. She chats about family memories, moving to New York, her political activism in Mississippi, singing at Michael’s Pub, all the albums she recorded, as she sings a few bars from various songs; the audience happily joining in the walk down memory lane, sometimes singing along.
The pleasure of hearing John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” segueing into “Country Road,” or Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” (which she actually heard him writing), always joyous. As she explains, the folk music police were after her when she recorded Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” the sheer simplicity with which she sings it so pleasurable on the ears.
Other gems she’s sang hundreds of times, like Webb’s “Campo de Encino” or Cohen’s “Suzanne” are delivered as if for the first time. She maintains a lightness and friendliness relating Webb’s quip “if you remember the 60s, you weren’t there.” Sitting and accompanying herself at the piano she sings her own haunting song “The Blizzard” about getting stuck in the Rockies with a dark headed stranger. Encore “Over the Rainbow” a fitting end to an evening with a remarkable lady.
I couldn’t help but notice the audience members – many grey heads and beards in suits and ties, perhaps recalling their days of protest in the 60s as they relive these songs of reality, social significance, sad, truthful.
Judy Collins continues at the Café Carlyle thru September 29th, 212 744-1600
*Photos: Stephen Sorokoff