By Tulis McCall

Apparently I have been living under a rock, because prior to Girl From The North Country  I did not know about Mare Winningham.  Here is what I wrote last October about the show at the Public Theater.

The panoply of events rolls out with excruciating detail and slowly seeps over the footlights into your core.  This you do not realize until Mare Winningham delivers the first shot with “How Does It Feel?” toward the end of the first act, and then lowers the boom on you with “Forever Young” as the story slows to a walk and heads for the barn. By the time she sings the latter, you have no resistance left because you have been cracked open like a late summer melon.  You see yourself juicy and glistening and raw – you see yourself as you never have before.

Prior to that I thought – good actor – sure.  Reliable, steady and sensitive.  You bet.  Stage, TV and film – check.

But musician and singer – nope.  In fact I would have bet money that her talent had not strayed out of the barn and over to that part of the ranch.

Too bad you were not there to take my money.  And now you can have a triple treat all your own because Ms. Winningham (how did she survive grammar school with that last name?) is now in beautiful residence at Café Carlyle.

Flanked by the talented Tim Crouch on fiddle and mandolin player extraordinaire, and his brother the most excellent bassist Dennis Crouch, Winningham on guitar, piano and dulcimer, thank you very much, gives us the gift of one beautiful song after another. She focuses her covers on music from the 60’s [Piney Wood Hills(Buffy Sainte-Marie) and Pack Up Your Sorrows(Richard Farina) to open the evening] because somewhere in that decade her mother was a winner on The Hollywood Squares.  Her prize was an 8 track cassette player (look it up) and 30 cassettes of her choice.  Winningham got ahold of that gizmo and taught herself how to sing, harmonize and play guitar.  Her parents had the best taste in music, and to this day that era still grounds her.

Mare Winningham; photo by David Andrako

A great deal of her set is also devoted to her children who, like their mother, are sensitive to the word beyond their years.  Unusual metaphors and fanciful visions that call out for music to bring them into the world.  She does this because she is a generous person, and a generous performer.  Everyone around her is lauded including the brothers, the audience members and the staff.  That is how this woman rolls.

Her most successful numbers were, for me, her covers.  These are featured in the latter half of the evening.  Winningham as the ability to pull a song apart and restring it with bits of gold.  Born At The Right Time (Paul Simon and arranged by Tim Crouch), Hard Times (Stephen Foster in the 1800’s) and of course Forever Young (Bob Dylan) are still with me.  And PS I was not a big Dylan fan until I heard Winningham deliver the goods.

Her set runs a tad long, and she can afford to trim it – perhaps even exchange a couple of numbers for Dylan’s How Does It Feel, which she could perform acapella without a hitch.  Just sayin’.

In the mean time I remain a huge fan and can only think that if you have the good sense to get your butt over to the Carlyle you will be won over as well.  I would even bet cash money on that.

Bravo all over the place!

Winningham is at the Café Carlyle for THREE performances only – through November 2 – so if I were you I would stop now and call for a reservation. Get a bar seat as those are the best in the house.

Performances will take place Tuesday – Saturday at 8:45pm. Weekday pricing begins at $85 per person / Bar Seating: $60 / Premium Seating: $135. Weekend pricing begins at $105 per person / Bar Seating: $75 / Premium Seating: $155. Reservations can be made online via Ticketweb. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue).


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