Smile Politely

Good Night & Good Morning, Sharon Van Etten, Speck Mountain at Courtyard

Folk music comes in a plethora of models ranging from the narrative to the archaic to the downright liberal protest music of the 1960s. This Friday, Courtyard Café will get a taste of three self-described “ambient” folk artists when Good Night & Good Morning, Sharon Van Etten and Speck Mountain take the stage. And if there was ever a proper venue for a night of sleepy, sobering folk music on a Friday night, Courtyard Café would have to be it.

Headliners Good Night & Good Morning hail from Chicago and specialize in a brand of folk that is breathy and tranquil while bordering on the dark side of ambient music, New Age. They have been known to use video projectors during their live set which should provide a welcomed respite from the humdrum visuals of a few dudes singing quietly with acoustic guitars. Let’s just hope they don’t take their name from the Hall and Oates song.

Brooklyn native Sharon Van Etten will also contribute to the slow, haunting atmosphere with her intensely personal urban folk. Van Etten laid her roots in Tennessee before making it to Brooklyn via New jersey, so one might expect a more earthy, genuine folk vibe from her. For fans of Chan Marshall, Van Etten will easily be the highlight of the evening.

Chicago’s Speck Mountain rounds out the bill and opens with a comparatively more dynamic sound than the aforementioned in the vein of 10cc or mid-70s cuts by the Hollies (more “The Air That I Breathe” than “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” unfortunately). Where Speck Mountain differs from the mayonnaise-drenched cracker rock of 10cc, however, is in the sultry, soulful, and decidedly un-folk, vocal delivery of Marie-Claire Balabanian.

There is certainly something to be said about the popularity of rootsy folk music in the 21st Century. In age where it is far too easy to dial up any act on earth via MySpace, iTunes and any other legal illegal means, there is something uniquely powerful about hearing a single guitar and a single voice. While the folk of the 1960s attempted to provide an answer to the quandaries of life, love, politics, etc, the folk of today provides a retreat from an age of oversaturated media.

But if any of these acts sit cross-legged on the floor or sports a flower in their hair, run for the hills. Catch all this tonight at the Courtyard Cafe, starting at 7:30 p.m., for $5.


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