Caffe Lena 3-CD Box Set Slated for Release in September

The acclaimed San Francisco-based Tompkins Square record label will release Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013 worldwide on Tuesday, September 24.

Showcasing music made in the small, second-floor coffee house in downtown Saratoga Springs, the 3-CD box set features previously unreleased live performances by Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Kate McGarrigle, Rick Danko, Anais Mitchell, Sleepy John Estes, Arlo Guthrie, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Sean Rowe and more.

Co-produced Jocelyn Arem (director of the Caffè Lena History Project) and three-time Grammy Award-winner Steve Rosenthal, the box set features a large number of previously unpublished photographs and extensive liner notes by Holly George-Warren, Robert Burke Warren, Scott Goldman and Michael Eck.

Here’s the complete press release from Tompkins Square:

Nestled in the quaint upstate town of Saratoga Springs, New York is Caffè Lena, the oldest continuously operating folk music coffeehouse in the US. Opened by Lena Spencer in 1960, this tiny room has played host to influential artists across diverse genres of music; traditional folk, blues, singer-songwriters, jazz and bluegrass. Luckily, many performances were caught on tape through the years, offering the listener
a thrilling seat inside this hallowed venue. Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013, a 3-CD box set, the result of years of investigative research, contains 47 tracks, all released for the very first time, alongside previously unpublished photographs. Images include
selections from the archive of esteemed photographer Joe Alper, who captured many iconic, intimate portraits from the folk era of the 1960s.

Live At Caffè Lena documents an important folk universe that was and is still happening in upstate New York, a story heretofore largely untold. The release of this collection comes at an auspicious time in light of renewed interest in the New York folk scene of the ’60s as depicted in the forthcoming Coen Brothers film, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” The film is loosely based on Dave Van Ronk’s 2005 memoir, “The Mayor of Macdougal Street.” Van Ronk, a Caffè Lena regular, served as a mentor to many artists, some who would go on to eclipse his fame. His 1974 recording of “Gaslight Rag” featured on the box set references the Gaslight Café, a famed Greenwich Village venue that along with Caffè Lena was a catalyst for the folk music revival.

Caffè Lena embodied the spirit of the folk boom, the era and its artistry, building a reputation as a hotbed of creativity and connection. It was also a safe haven and nurturing space for artists, its atmosphere cultivated personally by Lena Spencer herself. She would graciously house wayward artists, sometimes for months at a time. But she was not merely a host. She championed artists, from Bob Dylan as early as 1961 all the way through the ’80s until her passing. Her passion for identifying and promoting talent is evident throughout this 3-CD set. That Caffè Lena is still open for business tonight is a testament to her legacy.

‘Live At Caffè Lena’ is an important visual and audio document – 40+ years of our collective music history unearthed from dozens of “lost” tapes – night after night, show after show, through the decades – captured on tape in a tiny room in Saratoga Springs, New York.

AND: Here’s the complete track listing for Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013:

1. Intro by Lena Spencer / Guy Carawan’s “Cripple Creek” (1970)
2. Hedy West’s “Shady Grove” (1968)
3. Intro by Lena Spencer / Sleepy John Estes’ “Holy Spirit” (1974)
4. Frank Wakefield & Friends’ “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (1971)
5. Jean Ritchie’s “West Virginia Mine Disaster” (1969)
6. Billy Faier’s “Hunt the Wren” (1967)
7. The Greenbriar Boys’ “Hit Parade of Love” (1968)
8. Mike Seeger’s “O Death” (1971)
9. Jacqui & Bridie’s “Hello Friend” (1974)
10. Tom Paxton’s “Morning Again” (1968)
11. David Amram’s “Little Mama” (1974)
12. Patrick Sky’s “Reality Is Bad Enough” (1971)
13. Rosalie Sorrels’ “Travelin’ Lady” (1974)
14. Smoke Dawson’s “Devil’s Dream” (1968)
15. Utah Phillips’ “The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia” (1974)
16. Michael Cooney’s “Thyme It Is a Precious Thing” (1974)
17. Kate McGarrigle & Roma Baran’s “Caffè Lena” (1972)

1. Intro by Lena Spencer / Dave Van Ronk’s “Gaslight Rag” (1974)
2. Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” (1968)
3. Barbara Dane’s “Mama Yancey’s Advice”/”Love With a Feeling” (1968)
4. Roy Book Binder’s “Ain’t Nobody Home But Me” (1974)
5. Intro by Lena Spencer / David Bromberg’s “The Holdup” (1972)
6. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s “Pretty Boy Floyd” (1992)
7. Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans” (2010)
8. Aztec Two Step’s “The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty” (1989)
9. Happy & Artie Traum’s “Trials of Jonathan” (1974)
10. Rick Danko’s “It Makes No Difference” (1988)
11. Paul Geremia’s “Something’s Gotta Be Arranged” (1989)
12. Robin & Linda Williams’ “S-A-V-E-D” (1987)
13. John Herald’s “Ramblin’ Jack Elliott” (1991)
14. Pete Seeger’s “Somos El Barco (We Are the Boat)” (1985)

1. Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion’s “Folksong” (2013)
2. Anais Mitchell’s “Wedding Song” (2013)
3. Bill Morrissey’s “The Last Day of the Furlough” (1990)
4. Patty Larkin’s “Island of Time” (1992)
5. Greg Brown’s “Flat Stuff” (1989)
6. Mary Gauthier’s “I Drink” (2013)
7. Sean Rowe’s “Old Black Dodge” (2013)
8. Tom Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” (1987)
9. Intro by Lena Spencer / Christine Lavin’s “It’s a Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind” (1987)
10. Bill Staines’ “Sweet Wyoming Home” (1990)
11. Bucky & John Pizzarelli’s “I Like Jersey Best” (1989)
12. Rory Block’s “That’s No Way to Get Along” (1989)
13. Chris Smither’s “Killing the Blues” (1989)
14. Tift Merritt’s “Traveling Alone” (2013)
15. John Gorka’s “Down in the Milltown” (1990)
16. Lena Spencer’s “Dear Little Cafe” (1972)

  1. Fred says

    Wow! Still, I wish there were a 4th disc of performances by Ramblin’ Jug Stompers, Chandler Travis, Grainbelt, The Holmes Brothers, Honeyboy Edwards, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Alvin “Youngblood” Hart, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, and Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart.

  2. Richard Brody says

    Fred – you could also add Townes Van Zandt and Loudon Wainwright III.

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