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Richard McGraw Performs at the Ritz Theater on Saturday, February 11

  |   January 13, 2012  |  Comment

The Ritz Theater is pleased to present local folk singer and songwriter, Richard McGraw on Saturday, February 11 at 8 PM in the Ritz Theater Lobby at 107 Broadway in Newburgh. Richard McGraw will be performing with Matt Kanelos, piano; Joshua Flieschmann, drums and Ben Gallina, bass to celebrate the release of his new record “Popular Music.”

Richard McGraw is a man who knows no boundaries. Or perhaps, one who knows them, but ignores them anyway. His new LP, aptly titled Popular Music is the case-in-point. Who needs a pigeonhole when you can sing like bird? McGraw’s somewhat tortured, most definitely emotive baritone is just as wonderful when it takes on a wholly unexpected rendering of REO Speedwagon’s “Take It On The Run,” and an equally offbeat adaptation, “Baba O’Reilly” (The Who) as when it tries (and succeeds) at the more likely Leonard Cohen classic,  “Ain’t No Cure For Love.” McGraw doesn’t stop there with his nod to the old bard. A McGraw original- the imagined, posthumous song-eulogy to Cohen, “Leonard Cohen R.I.P. (the song)”, dare we say it, is just as moving and profound as anything its subject has done in recent memory—surely the result of some undeniably heartfelt channeling.

You can sit there with a question mark for a halo while you read the liner notes, but you don’t really know what you’re getting into until you put on Popular Music. Rife with shimmering strings, a children’s choir, rambling guitar, McGraw’s song choices all make complete sense—his take on Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” not at all a poke, rather a perfect complement, his version of Mick Smiley’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” really is a “big thing,” Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” rambles like an Appalachian brook, Holland-Dozier-Moy’s “This Old Heart Of Mine” made famous decades ago by the Isley Brothers, now comes full circle and the late Rick James’ “Party All The Time” makes you remember the original without actually recalling what it sounded like in the first place. Finally, Richard wraps it in a bow with Johnny Rodriguez’s “If You See Her” ending with a gorgeous acapella verse sung in harmony.

McGraw’s mournful voice and exquisite lyricism were first expressed in his 2003 debut, Her Sacred Status My Militant Needs. The song “Sidetracked” from that record landed him a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The record caught the ear of producer/guru Rick Rubin. Richard found himself playing songs for Rubin in his hotel room, then birthing new songs for Rubin in an attempt to enter the kingdom of major labelhood.

Although keys to the Kingdom where not forthcoming, Richard was given the gift of new songs and a new confidence that would become his second record, Song and Void Volume 1– A contemplative record that dealt with themes of mortality and the fragility of life and love. The record was hailed by Performing Songwriter magazine as “a true masterpiece.” Lian Lunson, director of “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man” would say about it, “I haven’t liked a record this much in ages.”

Richard’s third record, Burying the Dead seamlessly covered diverse sonic landscapes: from Tibetan throat singing to orchestral rock ballads. It featured a cover song Billy Joel’s “My Life” and re-write of Leonard Cohen’s classic, Chelsea Hotel #2 (“Balmville Motel”). The album also broke ground with its graphic design: the stark white package with its iconic controversial cover, a bronze foil stamped image of the resurrected Christ (drawn by Wall Street Journal portrait artist Kevin Srpouls).

Popular Music is Richard’s fourth release. After his cover of Billy Joel’s “My Life” was placed in Ralph Lauren stores and praise for it kept coming in, Richard learned the value of a good cover song.

As Richard describes, “I usually make records then hope they sell. This time I started out with the intentions of selling music. I chose songs that already sell like a Lady Gaga song for example. The problem became how do I do a Lady Gaga song and still respect myself? What started out as a scheme to make money later became an art, the art of selling out: aiming for commercial success while staying true to my heart and my aesthetic.”

The record was produced by Alexander Foote (guitar player for The Welcome Wagon, The Gregory Brothers, Diane Birch and Matte Bauer); Recorded in Alex’s bed room and The Buddy Project in Astoria, known for many of Sufjan Stevens recordings.

The album art is based on the famous Rider Waite Tarot card deck. “I wanted to play with the idea of fate. I customized the package so that when you open it, the disc pops up like a wheel of fortune, and a pointer on the package reveals one’s fate.”

The concert will be held in the Ritz Theater Lobby at 107 Broadway in Newburgh. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through TicketWeb at (866) 468-7619, www.ticketweb.com, via our website at www.ritztheaternewburgh.org, or by calling the Ritz Theater Box Office at (845) 784-1199. All tickets are general admission. Light refreshments will be available for a nominal charge, all proceeds to benefit the restoration of the historic Ritz Theater. Seating is limited.

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