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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006 10:02 pm

Singer-songwriter soirée

Cabin Concert series opens its spring season on Saturday with the Illinois Songwriters Special

The Cabin Concert series opens its spring season with a program called “Illinois Songwriters Special.” Ann Bova and Joe Bohlen, hosts of the bluegrass/acoustic concerts, have booked four folk-oriented Illinois singer/songwriters as a preseries bonus show. The performances are held in the couple’s home, a cabin (hence the name) out in the wilds north of Pleasant Plains that’s equipped with a wonderful sound system and great acoustics. Ben Bedford, the youngster of the songsters, was raised in Chatham and recently graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He got his taste in music from his mother’s album collection. Bedford’s father’s family lived not far from the actual site of the Cabin Concerts, so it is a bit of a homecoming for him. Bedford, a prolific writer, is best described as a pleasant cross between Gordon Lightfoot and Willie Nelson. The other central-Illinois representative, Mark Mathewson, makes his home in Athens, works in Springfield, and co-hosts Bluegrass Breakdown on WUIS (91.9 FM) every Sunday evening. A stellar acoustic guitarist, he is also a gifted songwriter — a talent he is quite quiet about, even though he has had more success in getting songs covered by recording artists than anyone else in the area. He spends most of his playing time backing his singing daughter Molly, who has promised to join him for a few songs Saturday night, along with Bova and Doug Knecht. Wil Maring, a southern-Illinois gal, seems destined to rule the hearts and ears of the Springfield community and from there the world. Every local show, from previous Cabin Concerts to a packed house at First Night Springfield, shows her ability to play great music and attract a large audience, which are not always simultaneous accomplishments. The Gordons — that would be Roberta and Gary — are also from southern Illinois, down Sparta way, and have played many a well-attended show here in central Illinois. The married duo has ascended to near-legendary status the honest way, through years of good work, while touring, releasing records, and helping other musicians in the community. The Cabin Concerts spring series runs March-May and features nationally (and, in some cases, internationally) known acoustic artists.
The Cabin Concert Series presents “Illinois Songwriters Special,” featuring Wil Maring with Robert Bowlin, Ben Bedford, Mark Mathewson with Molly Mathewson, Ann Bova, Doug Knecht, and Roberta and Gary Gordon, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at 6495 Lehmann Rd. in Pleasant Plains. Reservations must be made in advance; call 217-626-1091 or visit www.thecabinconcerts.com.

Still on the go, after years of using one of the most colorful, clever names on the local show-business scene, the Moonlight Rhythm Rangers romp into Floyd’s Thirst Parlor (212 S. Fifth St., 217-522-2020) at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, for a foray into roots-rock and altered country. Fronted by Rodney Patterson and Keith Voegele, the group makes a rare live appearance to celebrate the little-known but highly respected Feast of the Sanguine and the thought that Morris might get a haircut before the next full moon. Lyman Ellerman, our personal songwriter at large in Nashville, Tenn., returns to the L&L Stockyards (3045 Sangamon Ave., 217-789-0440) on Saturday, Feb. 25 with his latest live-music concoction, Ragged Jack. The band is one of Ellerman’s best ever, combining elements of Midwest country and Southern rock to yield a modern mix of foot-stompin’, beer-drinkin’, enjoyable bar music. No major bites for Lyman in Music City, USA, as of yet, but he keeps plugging away and recently had a song put on hold, which is a very good thing in the business of songwriting. What’s that you say? You just can’t get enough of that old Dixieland music? Satisfy your jones this weekend as the Riverboat 5+1 cruises into the Lime Street Café (951 S. Durkin Dr., 217-793-1905), 8:30 p.m.-midnight Friday, Feb. 24, and Turasky’s (Old Route 36, Dawson, 217-364-5451), 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26. The group comprises some our finest local jazz musicians. It’s CD-celebration time for Prairie Rose, a local mainstay trio consisting of Al and Nancy Kitchen and Al’s daughter Kathy Kitchen. The 12-track disc, Tell Me Why, was recorded at the Little Hollywood Studio in Nashville, Tenn., and produced by studio owner Danny Lee Ramsey, using experienced Nashville session players. The music, which ranges from country to pop to blues, showcases the vocal harmonies of Nancy and Kathy. The $15 admission to the party gets you live music by Prairie Rose and Danny Lee Ramsey, one drink, and a two-song preview CD of Nancy’s new solo Nashville project. The festivities run from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, at Chantilly Lace (2660 S. Fifth St., 217-522-7447). For more information visit www.prairieroseband.org.
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