At The Zephyr, SimpleGifts gives songs from the ’70s a new sound
The classic version of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s song “Teach Your Children” starts with a distinctive pedal steel guitar solo. Fans of the folk rock supergroup may already be singing: “You, who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by… .”
Now, imagine that intro played on a penny whistle and the lyrics sung in three-part harmony by women. There you have SimpleGifts, the group created by guitarist, composer, and producer Billy McLaughlin and returning to The Zephyr for an outdoor concert Aug. 28.
Billed as “The Young and the Rest …,” the show features songs from the ‘70s, such as Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and America’s “Ventura Highway.”
“This is music made famous by men,” McLaughlin said. What’s unique about the tribute band SimpleGifts is it is women who are giving this music a new interpretation, he said.
The group had a simple start: Initially, the Twin Cities-based singers and musicians presented only Christmas concerts. In particular, they loved the Old World carols from the British Isles and the sounds of Celtic whistles, bagpipes, and a concertina mingled with an acoustic guitar. SimpleGifts holiday shows are still going strong after 20 years.
But their fans wanted more. “Everyone asked us if we played beyond Christmas,” McLaughlin said.
Eventually, the answer was yes. In 2018, when the group talked about branching out, it was the women who focused on these tunes from the ’70s. The singers — Karen Paurus, Carin Vagle, and Amy Courts (who also plays the melodica) — had “second-hand” knowledge of that era; it was music their parents listened to. “But the women in the group had never had the opportunity to sing songs that weren’t sung by a woman,” McLaughlin said.
Now, they do in “The Young and the Rest … .”
Keeping the singers — and those familiar lyrics — in the spotlight are musicians Billy McLaughlin (acoustic guitar), Billy Oehrlein (percussion), Dan Ristrom (bass guitarist), and Laura MacKenzie (wooden flutes, whistles, concertina, bagpipes), who also sings.
“The Young and the Rest …” will be presented at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 on the outdoor stage at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. Tickets are $25 in advance at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org; $30 at the gate. Cash bar open. Chairs provided or bring your own.
Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, Aug. 25
Four musicians use guitar, fiddle, bass, drums, percussion, and vocals to present a unique art rock/jazz fusion.The group says their sound has been compared to King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs, Bela Fleck, and the Flecktones.
Galactic Cowboy Orchestra will perform at 7 p.m. Aug. 25 on the outdoor stage at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. Tickets are $20 and are available at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org or at the door. Cash bar open. Chairs provided or bring your own.
Everything I Own …, Sept. 20
This tribute to the band Bread features Wayne Anthony and an eight-piece ensemble and promises some of the most romantic songs ever written. Bread had 13 Billboard-charting songs, including “Make It With You,” “Baby I’m a Want You,” and “If.”
Everything I Own … will be presented at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. Tickets are $35 and available at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org or at the door. Cash bar open.
Literature Lovers’ Night Out, Sept. 28
Valley Bookseller will present a gathering of national and local authors at The Zephyr Theatre. Featured authors will be Peter Geye (“Sky Jumpers”), Gretchen Anthony (“The Book Haters’ Book Club”), Jillian Medoff (“When We Were Bright and Beautiful”), and Carol Dunbar (“The Net Beneath Us”).
Literature Lovers’ Night Out will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at The Zephyr Theatre, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. Tickets are $15 and are available at fareharbor.com/valleybookseller. Cash bar open.