By Victoria Dammer
The eyes that inspired Stephen Stills to write “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” are still deep blue and filled with the spark of a veteran performing artist. That voice was just as crisp and smoothly transitioned through several octaves, the same as when she first performed her guitar-based songs back in the 60s. A volume of curly hair framed a soulful face.
The crowd at the Town Hall was enthralled to spend the December 17 evening with the incredible Judy Collins, accompanied by the talented and popular North Carolina band Chatham County Line and the amazing singer, composer, and musician Toshi Reagon. Described as a “celebration of the holidays with a night of storytelling, holiday music, and winter classics,” the audience was not let down during the two-hour program.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist Collins has released 28 studio albums, four gold and two platinum, five live albums, and many other collaborative albums that span her seven-decade career.
Entitled “Winter Stories,” the same name as her recently released CD, the outstanding North Carolina band Chatham County Line (CCL) joined Collins onstage. They thrilled attendees with their breathtaking duet of music by Norwegian folk artist Jonas Fjeld. CCL’s John Teer played a delightful solo, exhibiting his remarkable gifts as he transitioned from mandolin to fiddle. CCL’s other members included songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and harmonica player Dave Wilson, standup bassist and pedal steel player Greg Readling, and the newest addition to the band, drummer Dan Hall.
The band has toured the U.S. and Europe for the last two decades, and Collins remarked they first performed together in Colorado, and the band fits well with her easy-going folk, pop, country style of music choices.
Music composer for two Peabody Award-winning films, Toshi Reagon, rocked the hall with her magnificent voice. Violinist Juliette Jines, harpist Riza Printup, and percussionist Shirazette Tinnin accompanied her. Reagon sang a selection of her songs, including one she wrote with her famous mom, Bernice Johnson Reagon. In addition, Reagon performed the powerful, heart-moving duet “Amazing Grace” with Collins, the rendition so honored the Library of Congress preserved it in the National Recording Registry for its “cultural, historical and artistic significance.”
Collins did not disappoint the crowd by performing several of her most famous songs, including the 1975 Grammy Award winner for Song of the Year, “Send in the Clowns.” With the recent death of its composer, Stephen Sondheim, Collins was visibly moved, and brushed tears away at the end of the piece. She also sang “Both Sides, Now” and other songs, including music composed by Jim Webb and a piece for her upcoming album that will be out this spring.
The Town Hall Presents Judy Collins: Winter Stories with special guests Chatham County Line and Toshi Reagon. Musical Director Russell Waldon; Larry Zucker, Executive Director; Melay Araya, Artistic Director; Jeff Mann, Marketing Director; Keith Sherman and Scott Klein, Publicity; Ted Lambert, COO; Bill Dehling, Technical Director; Carl Acampora, Production Manager; Alex Koveos, Digital Media Manager; Dennis Rakauckas, Graphic Designer.
Running time: Two hours with one 15 minute intermission.