A Conversation with Caroline Doctorow

Caroline Doctorow, the acclaimed folk musician, will perform in the Songwriters Share Concert Series. Grover Gatgewood photo
Caroline Doctorow, the acclaimed folk musician, will perform in the Songwriters Share Concert Series. Grover Gatgewood photo

By Christine Sampson

Acclaimed folk musician Caroline Doctorow talks about the message of folk music, her new album, and her upcoming performance in the Songwriters Share Concert Series. For the show, Ms. Doctorow chose the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center as the beneficiary. Planned for March 3 at 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door.

How would you describe the audience that folk music receives among East End music fans?

I’ve always had such wonderful support for my music out here. … The audience seems to want to hear the lyrics of the songs. They want to feel as if we all have something in common and that we’re all working toward the same humanitarian world and goals.

Is there a sentiment in folk music that this art form should also reflect or support grassroots movements or local organizations, such as in this case the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center?

Yes, definitely. There’s such a great quote from Woody Guthrie: “It’s a folk singer’s job to comfort disturbed people and to disturb comfortable people…”  I’m a big fan of Woody Guthrie and what he stood for. One thing I can say is that I come from the family of a well-known writer, E.L. Doctorow, and he had a very brilliant political mind and he was able to articulate very specific ideas about our country, our history and our politics. He leaned to the left, as do I, but since I don’t have my father’s genius political mind, what I can do is sing protest songs that are about political change and social justice. That is actually really the definition of folk music to some degree – they sing for social justice and civil rights.

What can audiences expect from the upcoming concert?

I have a new record out, “Dreaming in Vinyl,” which is sort of my attempt to hold myself to the standards of a lot of the records that I loved, and still love, of the 1960s and 1970s folk albums. … I will be playing from my new album. I was very lucky because it went to No. 2 nationally for two months running on the Folk Music Airplay Radio Chart, a national chart based on several stations across the country. My full band will be with me – on fiddle Chris Tedesco, on guitar Russ Seeger, and on upright bass Karl Allweier – and we’re going to do a really upbeat, fast-paced set that includes songs from the new record and a lot of folk music classics and songs that we play. Also, I will have a special guest for my show, Walt Michael. This is a first for me in the three years that I’ve been playing this series. He’ll be doing a set in between our two sets playing an instrument called the hammered dulcimer, a folk music instrument. He’s probably the country’s best-known hammered dulcimer player. Walt will be a nice compliment to us.

What is your relationship with the BCCRC? What is it about the center that made you want to choose BCCRC to support?

I think it’s a great organization. I live down the road from the center. It affords kids with a place to go after school if their parents are working, and it looks like they’ve opened a little branch of a music school with East End Arts. Since I live in Bridgehampton, I wanted to choose an organization that was close to home.

You’re in good company in supporting the BCCRC, given the annual Jazz for Jennings lineup. Are you a jazz music fan also?

That is good company! I don’t know enough about jazz music. I’m so immersed in folk music.

What else would you like people to know about the March 3 event?

It’s fun, casual, and I really adore the series founder, Nancy Remkus. She was a teacher in the Sag Harbor school system, now retired. While she was teaching she founded a program called the Morning Sing. … It was such a simple, beautiful concept. Before the school day began, the student body would gather to sing a few songs together. I really admire her for that.

The Songwriters Share series, featuring Caroline Doctrow and Walt Michael in support of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center, will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 977 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton on March 3 beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit uucsf.org.