John Clarke
John Clarke (Courtesy of John Clarke)

 

SHEFFIELD

Dewey Hall wants to be your Friday night destination for finding local solo music performers together in one space.

Veteran musician, producer, writer and performing arts promoter Todd Mack took the helm back in July as executive director of the 127-year-old, two-story stone and wood gathering space, which seats about 130 people.

"We're really trying to build it into a concert venue of all genres of music, but starting small," said Mack, who is also known for his work with the educational nonprofit Music in Common.

Currently, Dewey Hall is the home of two monthly music series: Berkshire Songwriters in the Round and a youth concert series produced in partnership with Music in Common.

This Friday marks the fifth concert lineup of Berkshire Songwriters in the Round, featuring the words and guitars of John Clarke (of Bell Engine), Ryan Foss, Justin Hillman and Mack.

"Each month, I invite three songwriters who live in the Berkshires to join me on stage to swap songs and give them the opportunity to showcase the deep, rich well of songwriting talent that lives in the area," said Mack.

And, the Atlanta native says, for being a rural area, the Berkshires offers a dense population of musical talent.

Here's a closer look at Friday night's lineup, which Mack describes as an "introspective singers-songwriters set":

 

John Clarke

Things they just pass away/ Like sitting by the roadside/ a moment in the daylight/ Watch the light fade away/ A beautiful goodbye/ evening from the daytime. -- "Things Pass," by John Clarke

Born in Central Massachusetts, holding a degree in classical music composition and actively pursuing endeavors in art- and music-making, Clarke currently resides in Housatonic. Musically, he's best known as the co-founder of the local band Bell Engine.

"My main musical outlet is as a singer-songwriter. But after three years with Bell Engine, I haven't done a lot of solo work," Clarke told The Eagle.

This Friday night at Dewey Hall, he's planning to bring a rare glimpse into the range of his repertoire, including songs written pre-Bell Engine, songs written during the group's history and a new song he's hoping to finish by tomorrow.

And while he studied classical composition, Clarke said his musical influences include musicians from the ‘60s and ‘70s, like Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

"[My music] is very personal, acoustic based, but with a driving and energetic sound. Lyrics are important to me. The melody's important too."

Ryan Foss
Ryan Foss (Courtesy of Ryan Foss)

Hear Clarke at: bellengine.com/musiclyrics.html

Learn more about him via Sohn Fine Art: http://bit.ly/1es5WbY

Ryan Foss

Fortune and fame/ well it's all the same/ I would never ever change/ Fortune and fame/ and it's yours to gain/ and I would never change. -- "Fortune And Fame" by Ryan Foss

Foss is an up-and-coming musician from Great Barrington who attended Berkshire School and Gettysburg College, and is now working with producers Taylor Barefoot of Taylor Barefoot Productions and Nate Christy of Karmic Music to make his first EP recording.

Todd Mack
Todd Mack (Courtesy of Todd Mack)

Locally, he's played the Troubadour Series at The Guthrie Center, served as an opening act at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield and played last night in the window at Mission Bar & Tapas. Friday will be his first time performing at Dewey Hall, though he's previously recorded a demo with host Todd Mack.

Foss describes his sound as "indie-folk-rock Americana with a West Coast influence," which he's also hoping to bring beyond the Berkshires to the Brooklyn market later this year.

In the meantime, he's looking forward to continuing to perform at local venues, including The Brick House Pub on Jan. 31.

"Playing in the Berkshires is kind of perfect because I latched on to folk, and this is a nice area to make that kind of music," he said.

See a video of Foss here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaGPePv6MnE

Learn more at: ryanfossmusic.com

Justin Hillman

And now I've arrived/ only to find/ everything I've ever wanted/ it had always been mine. -- "Keys To The Time Machine" by Justin Hillman

Justin Hillman hails from Richmond, but is now based in Pittsfield where he makes his own music and works on producing others' in The Micro Studio. Most recently he worked on a recording for Tyringham-based duo Oakes and Smith.

Hillman describes his musical stylings as "eclectic singer-songwriter" and "alternative contemplative folk music." He's worked on creating music while both at home in the Berkshires and traveling in India. He's played before audiences at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket and kirtans at Kripalu in Stockbridge.

Though he plays multiple instruments, including piano and banjo, Friday's show will focus on his guitar and vocal work.

He previously played Dewey Hall in a similar round-format concert, which, he said, lured him to play Friday's gig.

"I don't know any of the other musicians," said Hillman, "But that's one of the special things about this format -- it's putting on a show while watching one."

See and hear Hillman's work at: justinhillman.com

Todd Mack

Your eyes would not lie/ they burn through the night/ I'm comin' on strong/ but I'm holding on tight. -- "Two Steps Behind" by Todd Mack

Todd Mack has made a 25-year career as a musician, songwriter, producer and music educator in the Berkshires and beyond. His most recently acquired role includes being executive director for Dewey Hall in Sheffield. The town's also home to his Off the Beat-n-Track recording studio.

In addition, he's also a driving force behind the nonprofit Music in Common, which pays tribute to the legacy of his friend and fellow musician, the late journalist Daniel Pearl, of the Wall Street Journal, The Berkshire Eagle, North Adams Transcript and San Francisco Business Times. Music in Common has reached more than 100 communities in the United States, Middle East and Far East.

Since 2002, Mack has produced and hosted two nationally syndicated radio shows, the "Off the Beat-n-Track Radio Show" and the "FODcast." He's also currently working on his eighth album.

On Friday night at Dewey Hall, he'll return to his singing-songwriting roots, performing with an acoustic guitar and possibly ukulele.

"The acoustics are amazing in the hall. It's one of the best sounding rooms anywhere, with lots of wood and really high ceilings. It's going to be a good night," he said.

See and hear Mack's work at: toddmack.net.