LIVE: Carolyn Shapiro @ Caffe Lena 02/20/2022

SARATOGA SPRINGS – For many artists, the perfect venue; perfect live moments are often daydreamed and romanticized. The gestalt of the perfect album release party could certainly take the cake of this aforementioned daydream and February 20th might’ve been the realization of just that. Carolyn Shapiro, celebrating her album release of the debut effort, Where I’m Supposed to Be, played to a sold-out audience at Caffe Lena. Known not only for her work in the venue as one of the many people keeping the place running, Shapiro, through that venue and beyond, has gained local recognition of a banjo-slinging singer-songwriter, steeped in the genre of Appalachia folk music. Performing two sets that evening, Shapiro commanded the stage in her own way, and did so solidly from start to finish. Taking the stage with her that night was Oona Grady on double bass, James Gascoyne on guitar and backup vocals, and Connor Armbruster on violin.

Photo credit: Joseph Deuel.

While the songs all kind of existed within the same comfortable flow of movement – never rambunctious but also never plodding and meandering – the performers distilled an amazing listening experience throughout the room of such an esteemed venue. As I closed my eyes, it was almost an involuntary response that I found myself drifting off to an extremely quaint place in my mind; a place rife with bucolic imagery and simpler times. Throughout the night, nothing felt particularly “in your face,” but the sort of calmness demanded attention. There were a lot of great moments heard as the night moved on.

In particular, were the songs “River Meets the Sea,” “Where I’m Supposed to Be,” “Out of Winter,” and “Take it Easy.” Whether it contained compelling chord changes (“River Meets the Sea”) blistering instrumental sections (“Out of Winter”) or a nice thematic blending of subjects (“Where I’m Supposed to Be” and “Take it Easy”), there were a lot of musical nuggets to be mined whilst listening. As Shapiro and her band took us from song to song, the banter that arose during each song’s intro was just as enjoyable for this listener as the songs themselves.

From left-to-right: Connor Armbruster, Oona Grady, Carolyn Shapiro, James Gascoyne. Photo credit: Joseph Deuel.

Nothing was too “out in the weeds” or peculiar; that’s not what this night was about. What this night did foster, thanks to Shapiro, was an extremely easygoing affair, and one that seemed to be over just as soon as it began. Even if she may have been slightly nervous during the first song of the night, the energy quickly shifted. Before long, much like her album title, Shapiro exuded a confidence that emanated the fact she was exactly where she was supposed to be. A night rich with intimacy and endearing moments betwixt four musicians that interwove their instruments solidly and with great sonic textures, the two sets zipped right by. A night that I’m sure will be remembered for a long time – by Shapiro and her fans, alike – it was a pleasure seeing the fruits of her labor come to fruition. I would highly recommend seeing Carolyn Shapiro whenever the opportunity strikes!


Set 1

Better Days
Can’t Go On Like This
Will You Love Me?
Time to Yourself
Where I’m Supposed to Be
River Meets the Sea
My Sweet Wyoming Home [Bill Staines]

Set 2

Swimming Like a Fish
Keep On Moving
Out of Winter
Red Rocking Chair [Bruce Molsky]
Take it Easy
Undone in Sorrow [Ola Belle Reed]
I’ve Endured [Ola Belle Reed]


If I Ain’t Got You [Alicia Keys]

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