From East to West: Two folk singer/song-writers make their way to Grass Valley |

From East to West: Two folk singer/song-writers make their way to Grass Valley

Submitted to Prospector
John Gorka was inspired by legendary folk troubadours like Stan Rogers, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt, while he was acting as a resident MC.
Submitted photo to Prospector |


WHO: The Center for the Arts presents

WHAT: John Gorka with special guest Amilia K Spicer

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: The Center for the Arts, 314 W Main Street, Grass Valley

TICKETS: $27 members, $30 general public. Tickets at: The Center for the Arts Box Office or by calling 530-274-8384 ext 14, BriarPatch Food Coop - 530-272-5333, or online at


Singer-songwriter John Gorka performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley and opening the show will be Amilia K Spicer.

From New Jersey, John Gorka is a world-renowned singer-songwriter who got his start at a neighborhood coffeehouse in eastern Pennsylvania. Though small, Godfrey Daniels was and is one of the oldest and most venerable music institutions and has long been a hangout for music lovers and aspiring musicians.

In the late 1970s, Gorka was one of these aspiring musicians. Although his academic coursework at Moravian College lay in philosophy and history, music began to offer paramount enticements.

Soon he found himself living in the club’s basement and acting as resident MC and sound man, encountering legendary folk troubadours like Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt.

Their brand of folk-inspired acoustic music inspired him, and before long he was performing his own songs — mostly as an opener for visiting acts.

Soon he started traveling to New York City, where Jack Hardy’s legendary Fast Folk circle (a breeding ground for many a major singer-songwriter) became a powerful source of education and encouragement.

Folk meccas like Texas’ Kerrville Folk Festival (where he won the New Folk Award in 1984) and Boston followed, and his stunningly soulful baritone voice and original songwriting began turning heads.

Those who had at one time inspired him — Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin, Shawn Colvin — had become his peers.

Opening act

It may be her haunting, husky voice that first grabs a listener, the way it glides over melodies like smoke, but it’s the songwriting that Spicer really wants you to hear.

As the lyric from her song “Shotgun” implies, singer-songwriter Spicer has a thing for wide-open spaces and mystical places. Even her record label name, Free Range Records, reflects her vagabond spirit — which has carried her from the green hills of her native Pennsylvania, through the hill country of central Texas, to the mountain monasteries of Tibet.

Based in Los Angeles and Austin, she might tell you she feels most rooted when she’s heading toward a distant horizon.

The songs on Spicer’s new album, “Wow and Flutter,” capture the vastness of those horizons with a cinematic quality. It should surprise no one that she pursued a career in film before music became her muse. The dichotomy of shadow and light, grit and wonder, are in the sonics, rather than on the screen.

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