Monthly Archives: January 2014

Dvorak, Thompson and Siemsen to lead fourth Community Sing in Milwaukee on February 22

Milwaukee, WI – Chicago’s Mark Dvorak, songstress Julie Thompson and guitarist and singer Craig Siemsen will lead the Fourth Annual Community Sing at the Coffee House, 631 N. 19th Street, Milwaukee on Saturday, February 22. The concert begins at 8:00 pm.

“Our new chair, Mary Gaar, is delighted to bring the community sing back to The Coffee House’s winter schedule,” said event director Siemsen. “It’s been a highlight for us, and over the years our audience has grown in numbers and enthusiasm. This year’s concert will be really special.”

The Milwaukee Community Sing was introduced in 2011 and based upon Lansing Michigan’s Mid-Winter Singing Festival, now in its 11th year. The songs are chosen beforehand and lyrics are projected on a screen for the audience to see.

“The experience can be transforming,” said Siemsen. “We try to choose familiar songs that the audience may already know, but we also like to challenge them with other types of songs that may be unfamiliar.”

Dvorak is a national touring artist who has sixteen albums to his credit. He was part of the founding cast of The Mid-Winter Singing Festival, and leads the Thursday Folk Jam at the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Folk Club @The Grafton sessions in Chicago.

Thompson is a versatile vocalist and recording artist who sings jazz, blues, folk and show tunes. She performs regularly with several ensembles in the Milwaukee area, and also works with children.

Siemsen is one of the pillar’s of Milwaukee’s acoustic scene. He has performed throughout the Midwest with his wife, Patti Stevenson, and are regular performers at The Coffee House. Siemsen is an acclaimed songwriter, a powerful interpreter and a skilled instrumentalist.

General admission to the Fourth Milwaukee Community Sing is $10 suggested donation. For more information on the event and the guest song leaders, phone 414-491-3980 or visit The Coffee House.

Chicago’s troubadour to perform in Rockford February 21

ROCKFORD IL – Just Goods Fair Trade Store welcomes Chicago’s official troubadour Mark Dvorak to its listening room for a concert of folk and original song on Friday, February 21 at 7:00 pm. Just Goods is located at 201 7th Street. The show is for all ages and a donation of $10 is suggested.

Dvorak, who was named “Chicago’s Troubadour” by WFMT 98.7 fm fine arts radio last year, has sustained a career of performing, recording and teaching that has spanned more than twenty-five years. He has performed in thirty-six states and several countries abroad with only his guitar, 5-string banjo and his songs.

In December his first book of essays and poems, “Bowing for Christmas and Other Tales from the Road” was published. It has received glowing reviews and sold out of its first printing in nine days. “The technique is beautiful,” writes reviewer Paul Schingle of Chicago. “If you like a good story, read this book. This guy can bring it.”

“We’re excited to have Mark return to our listening room,” said Just Goods music director Ron Holm. “We’re thrilled that Mark is able to add us to his winter tour and all of Rockford is looking forward to his appearance.”

For more information, contact Just Goods at 815 965 8903, or on the web at Visit Mark Dvorak on the web at

Loretta Sawyer Promotions is providing specialized radio promotion and distribution for James Curley’s new CD There Used to be a Train

Chicago, IL – “My aesthetic life is densely populated with songwriters, “ says Chicago songwriter James Curley. “ I see and hear the world through them, and they have informed my emotional and artistic life since I first heard ‘Moon River’ at the age of 5 and asked ‘who wrote that?’ (Henry Mancini) instead of ‘who sang that?” (Andy Williams).”

And thus began my journey that is now like a subway car at rush hour teeming with the likes of Harold Arlen, Jimmy Webb, John Hartford, Steve Goodman, John Prine, Warren Zevon, Townes Van Zandt, Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Todd Snider, John Gorka, Ellis Paul, Dan Navarro, Tom Waits, Ricki Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Roper, Nancy Walker, Sue Demel, Deb Lader, Bruce Cockburn and so many others that cram my mind and grace my heart.

Curley’s 3rd CD, There Used to be a Train, is thick with songwriter homage, both obvious and subtle. From John Lennon, Steve Goodman and Townes Van Zandt being directly referenced, and Warren Zevon’s ‘Mutineer’ being covered, to more oblique relationships like the one between ‘The Virtual Waltz’ and John Prine’s ‘Donald and Lydia’ and the one between Steve Goodman’s ‘City of New Orleans’ and Curley’s own ‘There Used To Be a Train’ – there are ghosts of songwriter influences at every turn. ‘A Townes Van Zandt Song’ received an Honorable Mention accolade in the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Songwriter Contest hosted by the Songwriters Association of Washington.

Produced and arranged by John Abbey (King Size Recording, who contributes bass to the project), the instrumental and vocal support features a ‘who’s who’ of luminaries from the Folk-Americana tradition: Dan Navarro (Lowen and Navarro), Steve Dawson (Dolly Varden), Sons of The Never Wrong, 2-Bit Palomino, Don Stiernberg, Ben Lansing, Gerald Dowd, Scott Stephenson, and the brilliant Jenny Bienemann whose singular vocals grace three tracks including a duet on ‘The Virtual Waltz’.

The collection of songs will stay with you long after you’ve heard them – this CD is a record meant to flow from track to track, taking you on a journey of insight, bittersweet regret, world weary advice and a range of emotional and intellectual experiences that tie the 21st century in America back to the great Folk-Americana song traditions of the past. Visit the website at
“James Curley’s new release, “There Used To Be A Train,” is right on track, with nine well-crafted originals and a mesmerizing cover of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer.”  Song after song delivers interesting lyrics, instrumentation, and arrangements, in a superb production by John Abbey of Kingsize Recording. Curley tackles topics ranging from the decline of society in general, to laser-sharp character sketches of lonely workers and a single mom raising four kids, as well as paying homage to late greats, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Goodman.  “There Used To Be A Train” is sweetened with voices and instruments by many fine artists, including Don Stiernberg, Steve Dawson, Jenny Bienemann, Gerald Dowd, Dan Navarro, and members of Sons of the Never Wrong and 2-Bit Palomino.
– Lilli Kuzma, host of “Folk Festival” on WDCB Public Radio (Glen Ellyn/Chicago)

Chicago Folk Club Celebrates 10 Years

CHICAGO IL – On January 4, 2004 a small group of Old Town School of Folk Music students and their instructor Mark Dvorak uncased their instruments and began to sing and play in the crowded back room at The Grafton Pub, just next door to the school.

Folk Club anniversary“The owner of the place called and asked if I might be interested in setting up for a performance at the The Grafton,” said Dvorak, who is artist-in-residence at the Old Town School. “At that time, a group of ten or a dozen students enjoyed hanging out in the hallway after class to play and sing together. But by the time we would get into the music, it was time for the school to close. I told Malcom (the owner of The Grafton), that I had a better idea. Our group needed a place to gather, and he was willing to go along with it. We’ve going strong ever since.”

It’s hard to estimate how many people have passed through the twice-monthly song session over the years. Dvorak imagines the number to be in the thousands. And only on rare occasions are songbooks or lyric sheets used.

“If people are more comfortable using lyric sheets or songbooks, we have no objection. The space is tight, so there isn’t a lot room, and truth be told, it’s kind of too dark back there to read the words.,” said Dvorak.

The sessions are comprised mostly of current and former Old Town School of Folk Music students and faculty, with Dvorak leading from his usual chair near the fireplace. The group has learned the value of beginning with familiar songs with simple melodies that are easy for a group to learn quickly. There are plenty of guitars to be sure, but there’s usually a few fiddles, banjos, mandolins and harmonicas too. “Over the years we’ve had people playing everything from keyboards, to a drum set and even a horn section, with trumpet and slide trombone.”

“We’ve had professional performers on tour, stop by to sing with us, and one time we had some men from the Republic of South Africa, who happened to be in the states, stop by to share some of the songs they sang while serving time during the years of apartheid. It was something powerful,” he said.

“At first I didn’t imagine this concept would catch on,” said Dvorak. “But one of the things I’ve learned is that people are eager to sing and play with each other in a social setting, like our cozy back room at The Grafton. I was surprised as anyone when our room filled up each week, and people began leaving class early at the Old Town School to get a good seat at Folk Club.”

“People are looking for each other. And we look for each other first where music is happening. Music flows into our lives and through our lives and takes us I think, to where we need to be.”

Folk Club @The Grafton meets each first and third Tuesday evening at The Grafton, 4530 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, right next door to the Old Town School of Folk Music. There is no cover charge, excellent food and beverages are available. Visit The Grafton online at

To join the Folk Club@The Grafton email list go here. Visit Mark Dvorak on the web at

Two Way Street Coffee House Welcomes Amy Dixon Kolar – Dancing Through The Storm

Downers Grove, ILTwo Way Street Coffee House welcomes Chicago singer/songwriter Amy Dixon-Kolar for a special CD release concert on Friday January 17, 2014, 8:15pm $7 Two Way Street Coffee House is located at 1047 Curtiss Ave, Downers Grove. IL 60515  More information at  or 630-969-9720.

Dancing Through the Storm is Amy Dixon-Kolar’s newest solo project.  Produced by Amy and John Abbey of Kingsize Sound Lab, this CD features some of the best musicians in Chicago, including Mark Dvorak, Don Stiernberg, Sue Demel ,Deb Lader, Bill Brickey, Steve Dawson and many more. Several of the musicians who accompanied Amy on the new release will join her for the special CD release concert.

“The theme of this album is how we choose to face the challenges of life.  We can let them drag us down, or we can stay ever hopeful and continue to dance through the storms.” – Amy Dixon-Kolar

Celtic, traditional, blues and folk influences are incorporated into her contemporary acoustic style.  Amy’s experiences as a sign language interpreter, teacher, political activist and mother have enabled her to observe life from diverse perspectives.  They imbue her lyrics and performance with honesty and wisdom.

Amy’s first CD, Now It’s Time, was released in 2008 and is a celebration of finding one’s voice, of coming back to what gives the soul joy and purpose.   Since its release, Now It’s Time has received national and international airplay.

Rosa Sat, Amy Dixon-Kolar’s award-winning single, was honored as first runner up in Paul Stookey’s Music2Life competition in 2010. The song has received close to 300,000 views on YouTube and is being sung by professional choruses, schoolchildren and political activists around the world.

More Information at

Chicago folk masters to perform in Park Forest on January 11

PARK FOREST IL – The Unitarian Universalist Community Church welcomes Chicago folk music masters Eddie Holstein and Mark Dvorak to the Edgar’s Place stage, 70 Sycamore Drive,  on Saturday, January 11 at 8:00 pm. General admission is $15.

Eddie Holstein is back on the performing circuit after recuperating from a medical procedure. Along with his brother Fred, Steve Goodman, John Prine and Bonnie Koloc, Eddie helped define the Chicago folk scene of the 1970s. His bluesy guitar style, engaging storytelling and original songs are the hallmarks of a distinguished performing career that has spanned five decades. His most well-known song, “Jazzman,” has been recorded by a number of artists including Pure Prairie League and Tom Rush.

Mark Dvorak’s name has become synonymous with Chicago folk music. In 2012 WFMT fm 98.7 Midnight Special host named him “Chicago’s official troubadour,” a sobriquet first given to Old Town School of Folk Music founder Win Stracke, and later to Fred Holstein, an early mentor to Dvorak. His songwriting has been called “wondrous,” and “profound.” His performance “an elegant balancing act of the traditional, the original and the powerful.” The Chicago Tribune calls him “masterful,” while SING OUT! magazine says, “Dvorak shines!” His 2011 Waterbug release, Time Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me, received national airplay and rose to number 14 on the Cashbox Roots Music Report. In 2013, Dvorak published his first book of essays and poems, “Bowling for Christmas and Other Tales from the Road.”

For more information phone 708 481 5339. Visit the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Park Forest on the web at Visit Eddie Holstein’s page at and visit Mark Dvorak at