Concert Review: Songwriters Showcase Offers Learning Opportunity @ Park Theatre, 04/06/2023

GLENS FALLS – The sun sets later these days, and the longer days afford us easier travel to a little gem up north, The Park Theater. The theater offers an intimate listening room experience for hand-selected artists to connect with listeners. Jim and I drove up to Glens Falls to see their Live & Local concert, a songwriter showcase featuring Josh Morris, Reese Fulmer, Gabby Hammond, and Ray Agnew.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Full disclosure: we really love Josh Morris’ drumming, so when I saw him sitting on a stool with his guitar, I felt a bit confused about what I would see. Morris was the songwriter event’s coordinator, and he had invited other musicians worth lending an ear to. He kicked off the night with a not yet named song that had moody, bluesy lyrics and some powerful strumming. I was stunned by his intensity and powerful singing and then realized I had a lot to still learn about Morris.

As songwriter showcases do, the four musicians took turns each playing a song. Fulmer was next and chose a new song, “Not Now, Not Forever.” The song draws parallels between his experience of confusion as a teenager learning about romantic connections and how he feels now as a songwriter approaching music professionally. His pensive lyrics and quiet strumming have a magical way of drawing me away from myself and further into the songs. “It’s not the harness; It’s the whip that makes the horses run” stayed with me long after his song ended.

Reese Fulmer – Photo by Jim Gilbert

Gabby Hammond was up next, and she verbalized her palpable anxiety. “It’s my first time on the stage in a little while,” she owned before launching into an autobiographical song about her time in Boston. Hammond’s voice is clear as a bell, and she is able to support the strength of her lyrics with great voice control. She reminds Jim of Tori Amos and me of Lady Gaga with her enormous vocal presence.

She traded off then to Ray Agnew, the senior musician on stage, who thanked Morris for including him. “It’s so nice of these young pups for having this old folkie,” he smiled. Agnew’s songs about trains and writing music replicated the sound of the trains in his strumming; his song told the story of songwriting, a piece that the other three listened to intently for its messaging.

Ray Agnew – Photo by Jim Gilbert

The cycle of musicians repeated then, starting again with Morris. This time I thought I was prepared for learning new things about Morris, but again my mind was blown as he played a song that he noted came to him in a dream. “I dreamt the entire son and then woke up and wrote it,” he confessed before launching into a song that seemed like a flashback to the 1990s. “Lucid” was sung in a minor key and totally sounded like something Eddie Vedder would’ve played. In fact, I was shaking my head a bit to see if that song was in my ears from my college days, and I had just forgotten it as the style was so perfectly capturing a grunge vibe. Completely original, “Lucid” was a musical flashback to an earlier style of rock that I had loved when younger, and I began to wonder how the young Morris had accomplished this task.

No sooner did he finish than Fulmer picked up and shared his song, also wondering, called “No Gospel.” The piece was inspired, per Fulmer, by legislation aimed at limiting individuals’ freedom of self-expression. “What’s in the truth if it’s all secondhand?” his lyrics questioned, balanced perfectly between some lovely plucking melodies and strumming alike.

Josh Morris – Photo by Jim Gilbert

The musicians continued this way through four sets, each leaning more and more into their personal style and views of the world. I learned that Morris has a lot of grunge in him, despite his young years when he played his previous band, Hasty Page’s song “Regret.” I learned that Fulmer can still make me cry with his imagery, taking me from Gloucester, MA’s wind-whipped coast to Ohio’s golden fields of flowers.

I also heard Hammond’s sound for the first time and admired her strong vocal abilities. Her original songs on the piano and ukelele had a pop vibe to them. While the lyrics were somewhat predictable, they contained an overall rawness in truth-telling about being hurt in relationships. Agnew’s optimism and hopefulness shone through the night in his Christian music and songs about unconditional love. I also heard some Irish lilt to his songs and recognized that Agnew’s playing brought strength to the stage in his confidence-building seasoning.

Gabby Hammond – Photo by Jim Gilbert

And all four musicians, despite having very different perspectives and presentations, clearly held each other in very high regard. “I’m certainly learning a lot tonight,” each musician took turns murmuring between songs.

The next Live and Local Show at the Park Theatre will be April 15th, when Shu celebrates a 30th anniversary and album release party. The venue has many great shows approaching this spring, including E.R.I.E.’s show on April 27th. Perhaps consider taking advantage of the longer days to travel in sunlight up for a show, or catch a show this summer in their outdoor venue at Crandall Park.

Ray Agnew, while Gabby and Reese watch on. – Photo by Jim Gilbert

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