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  • Ed Schmieder

Gathering Time: The Echoes of Influence

Now in their 15th year, Long Island’s Gathering Time’s harmonies are still charming “the birds out of the trees” as WFUV’s John Platt has written. The current configuration has been together since 2012, and they have cast their Orpheus-like charm over audiences in both the U.S. and abroad. The trio, Stuart Markus, Hillary Foxsong, and Gerry McKeveny are all “extraordinary singers” according to Peter Yarrow who performed for decades in the seminal folk music trio Peter, Paul, and Mary. Yarrow knows this first-hand having joined Gathering Time in performances at several folk festivals.

Gathering Time’s voices serve original songs, classic 20th-century folk and folk-rock music, and traditional folk songs using a blend of acoustic and electric instruments. So, the occasional rocker is not beyond their reach too.

Many of these songs reveal the band’s deep social consciousness. Their classic folk repertoire is “concerned with the plight of ordinary people, from railroad labor and coal mining songs to the civil rights and antiwar songs of the 1960s” according to founding member Stuart Markus. Given the tradition to which they are committed, it is not surprising that some of their original material has been prompted by recent social discord. In 2017, a song by Markus “Too Far to Turn Back” written in response to the events of Aug. 12, 2017, when a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville turned deadly. The song reached #4 on the nation’s Folk DJ Charts.

Blogger and industry insider Bob Smith on his music blog in a review of Gathering Time wrote the “undisputed stars are the voices.” In an interview with Gerry McKeveny, who joined the band in 2012, I asked him if he would dispute Smith’s claim. McKeveny responded that the singing was the thing; “I always wanted to be in a band that was centered on its vocal harmonies.” Knowing McKeveny for years, I knew, besides his voice, he brought superlative guitar chops along with him, and some of them would be electric.

The band’s most recent release Old Friends a disc’s worth of covers is available as a CD with an accompanying download. Their website says, “It is in honor of this timeless era of music that we have chosen, in the longtime folk tradition, to re-create and reinterpret some of our favorite songs of…the 1960s and ‘70s.” All these songs have influenced the sound of Gathering Time’s original music. Artists that are covered include The Byrds, The Youngbloods, Gordon Lightfoot, The Grateful Dead, The Mamas, and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, and more.

Gathering Time will perform a set of originals tonight. Firsthand, we will hear the echoes of their influences.

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