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Larry Litt

Nora York

Nora York is fighting against the Iraq War, neo-cons and injustice with a unique tool. She’s a singer-songwriter who, with her highly riveting band, is singing about her country, my country, our country—right and wrong. Meaning she doesn’t wash over the difficulties of being an American in these dangerous times for us and the world.

Her show titled "Life Liberty and the Pursuit..." played at Joe’s Pub on Lafayette Street, south of Astor Place, on July 8th at seven pm. It was a sold out early show with an enthusiastic audience, most of whom looked over 30, many over 40. This wasn’t the late night kid crowd looking for love in all the expensive places.

This group is aware of all the topical and political issues. They crave mature entertainers who will reinforce their anti-war, anti-intolerance, anti-class beliefs. One who sings it in a sultry way.

They came to hear Nora York because she’s the right singer with the right songs, who knows how to make her audience feel they are on the right side of their common issues.

The show opens with an overture called "KILLER/RUN" with music by Benny Golson, Jimi Hendrix, John Fogarty &Creedence Clearwater Revival. Nora’s version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" would scare the pants off any self righteous Republican with its vocally ironic emphasis.

After setting the highly charged political mood with her own favorites, Nora spends time setting the mood singing her own songs—starting with "Turns On A Dime" and "Indigo River."

Between songs there’s her own patter, patter that makes you aware that she’s not going to let you think she’s just a singer, but a thinker as well. She quotes philosophers, historians, novelists. We learn she’s a reader, not just a beautiful onstage presence with musical talent. She’s mold breaking and the audience agrees with her world view. They nod agreement and murmur consent.

However, when she goes into her version of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s famous song, "Sixteen Tons," setting the stage with Gary US Bonds fifties R and B hit, "Get A Job," the audience is humming, then clapping, then almost, almost singing along. It is an infectious work song for a group that mostly has never been to a coal mining town. Nora opened the door of universal insecurity and frustration for this audience. Maybe one summer some of them would go to West Virginia, instead of The Hamptons. Nora could persuade them to do it.

How the myth of Sisyphus gets to Joe’s Pub is part of Nora’s charming ability to segue from song to story. Are Americans merely Sisyphisian rock pushers unable to change because the gods have punished us for crimes and sins against, against…everyone we meet who’s not exactly like us or won’t do exactly what we want?

Nora keeps the show going with several of her own songs--"Rock And Hard," "Donna," "Every Time I Fall In Love," "Heal Me," and the amazing "What I Want." She’s working lyric territory like a coal miner works the land—bringing fire to earthy themes and creating the worm glow of her charm which infects her audience.

Where will Nora take her audience next minute? A speech by Martin Luther King set to rap music, Emma Lazarus’ "Statue of Liberty" poem set to music and finally Irving Berlin’s "God Bless America." Nora shows us that we can mix patriotism, anti-conservative loathing, progressive causes, liberal lifestyles and sophisticated entertainment.

The hour and a half show wraps with Nora’s feminist version of Mick Jagger’s "Ruby Tuesday" and her own song "Another Day" with brilliant band solos by Steve Tarshis on guitar, Jamie Lawrence on piano, Charlie Giordano on accordion, Maryann McSweeney on stand up bass, John Clancey on drums and the amazing, energetic voice of Sherryl Marshall who backs up Nora with an astute contrast and compliment.

Nora York’s "Life Liberty and the Pursuit..." show is cabaret with a strong humanist, liberal message. She sees the world as it is, with more than one issue, more than one way to sing a song, more than one problem to be solved before the world’s show is over. Bring your church lady friends to the next show, please.

Nora York will return to Joe’s Pub. When she does, make reservations; she’s always sold out. [Litt]

If you have any comments or want to notify me about performances or shows, you can e-mail me at humornet@aol.com.

Copyright © 2004 Larry Litt


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