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Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 07:01 am

No Plain Jane

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Nora Jane Struthers plays the Hoogland Center for the Arts, Sat, Dec. 17, 8pm, with Cowboy Andy's Christmas Spectacular.

When I first saw Nora Jane Struthers she was standing around at a Folk Alliance conference in Memphis, Tenn., in February of 2010, passing out promo EPs of her upcoming CD. At those get-togethers everybody has an agenda, often with less than polite means and always with at least a strong purpose of commercial possibilities. What so impressed me about the situation was seeing Nora Jane there among the collection of shameless self-promoters, seemingly above it all without intention, sublimely and subtly providing well-wishers with a polite howdy and a copy of her latest recording.

Along with her low-key presentation and honest lack of hucksterism, Nora Jane possessed a self-assuredness not found in fast talkers and quick sellers. Her strength emanated from a sincere place of earnestness where belief in self, joined with desire to present, created a firm conviction of what needs to be done in relation to how best to do it. I know this may seem like a lot to get from a first impression, but I did. To top it off, while looking at the CD notes, I noticed her players were some of the best in the business. Produced by Brent Truitt (Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss credits) and including stellar musicians Tim O’Brien and Stuart Duncan, her self-penned CD went on to receive attention and awards, while Nora Jane became acclaimed by critics as an important new voice on the Americana scene.

Here is your chance to see and hear this amazingly good performer at the Hoogland for a Bedrock 66 Live! series concert on Sat., Dec 17. Don’t be fooled by the bluegrass label, her lyrics are deep and intense, with layers of acoustic instruments to intensify the listening of a profound artist. Opening the show is one of my all-time favorite area performers, Cowboy Andy, doing his Christmas Spectacular show.

And while we’re at and on the Hoogland Center for the Arts, please take a moment to visit their website at www.hcfta.org  (select ways to give) and pay attention to pleas around town, in the media and everywhere you look, to aid putting down the Hoog’s mortgage. I can’t quite seem to understand what is going on for sure, but according to the site information, “The Hoogland Center for the Arts has a unique opportunity to receive $1.3 million in funds to eliminate our current mortgage balance of approximately $2.5 million. At this time, we are unable to disclose the source of the funds, but the offer is contingent on our ability to raise the remaining $1.2 million by Dec. 31, 2011. We are working towards this goal. If this opportunity is allowed to pass by, it is uncertain if the Hoogland Center for the Arts will be able to continue to maintain mortgage payments.”

So whatever mysterious event is happening and why the contingency, it sure sounds necessary to keep the valuable arts resource center alive and well. So let’s help out when and how we can (soon) to provide our community with a beautiful and practical forum for the arts. One of the best ways to help out is by attending shows, as a portion of the ticket prices goes to the Center.

One more thing that just came in: Micky Shomidie, local rocker of national acclaim and founder of House of Nasty, recently hooked up with Modern Superstar, a glitzy and gutsy rock band based on the hard-rock notions of the 80s and 90s. Comprised of former members of the Bullet Boys and Brittny Fox, the band just finished shows in Florida with LA Guns and Winger and are now coming to play Frankie’s 49er on Thurs., Dec. 15, with opening act Level Sixx. You can be there.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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