All-star weekend

Singer-songwriters in Cranston for the Round Square Festival
By CHRIS CONTI  |  May 14, 2014

STELLAR Blakeslee, Ringelheim, and Mercure (from top).
Veteran singer-songwriter Steve Allain has assembled a fantastic lineup for the 2nd annual Round Square Festival, highlighting some of the area’s top Americana and folk artists in a particularly intimate setting at Theatre 82, tucked away in Cranston’s Rolfe Square. Tickets for the Friday and Saturday (the 16th and 17th) shows will be available at the door for $10 per evening, or $15 for a weekend pass.

Allain and Artists’ Exchange director Elaine Yeaw brainstormed the idea last year prior to the opening of Theatre 82, and the wealth of talented singer-songwriters around the region convinced him that one night just wasn’t enough. And while he plans on making the Round Square Festival an annual event, we agreed he will have his work cut out for him trying to top this year’s lineup. Here’s a quick preview of some of the artists featured on the 2014 Round Square Festival.

Allain will lead off on Friday night. The folk and country-influenced finger-picking pro is readying his next EP (Singles Vol. 3), with help from producer Brian Minisce (who played at last year’s RSF). Allain moved here in 2007 and rekindled his passion for songwriting thanks to the Rhode Island Songwriters Association, and would eventually release his striking 2011 full-length debut, Thirteen.

“Even though I am involved with RISA, I wanted the Round Square Festival to be a completely separate entity,” he noted earlier this week. “The Saturday Songwriter Sessions that I host [at the Brooklyn Coffee Tea House in Providence] are sponsored by RISA, but I wanted this to be more open to showcase all the extraordinary talent that we have in and around Rhode Island.

“I am very lucky to know so many amazing singer-songwriters, and both nights have stellar lineups!”

G.W. Mercure served up “Americana on the rocks” as the founder of the Benedictions (who were voted Best Roots Act in our 2010 music poll) and released two must-hear LPs along the way, The Benedictions Play Devil Music and American Wasteland. Mercure plays out solo on a steady basis, including a weekly Sunday night gig at the Greenwich Hotel in East Greenwich.

The Friday lineup also features Tracie Potochnik, CT pianist Kayla Farnham (fans of Regina Spektor and Tori Amos should look up Farnham ASAP), and Boston’s Ian Fitzgerald headlining.

Fitzgerald performed on the forthcoming album from Dan Blakeslee (straight outta Somerville), who will cap off the Saturday ineup. Owed To the Tanglin’ Wind was recorded at the Columbus Theatre with an all-star cast of friends, including Joel Fletcher, Jonah Tolchin, Joel Thibodeau (of Death Vessel fame) and, of course, Columbus engineers Jeff Prystowsky and Ben Knox Miller from the Low Anthem. Here’s your chance to catch Blakeslee up close and personal before he sets off on a lengthy tour of the US and beyond later this year.

Traversing the globe is nothing new for Bristol-based solo songbird Allysen Callery. The renowned vocalist (with incredible finger-picking chops) delivers lullabies to paralyze like no other; 2013’s Mumblin’ Sue (75orLess Records) is equal parts gorgeous and haunting (look up “I Had a Lover I Thought Was My Own”). Word is she is currently working on new material with help from producer Bob Kendall.

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