Thursday April 18, 2013

NORTH BENNINGTON -- Vermont Arts Exchange’s Basement Music Series celebrates the timeless soul of Americana with Mike + Ruthy on Saturday, April 20, featuring the couple’s stories and songs. Local musician Brendan Eprile begins the concert at 8 p.m.; doors to VAE’s Basement Music Series concert studio in the Sage Street Mill open at 7 p.m.

Featuring fiddle, banjo, guitar, ukulele and their hallmark, white-knuckle-tight harmony singing, Mike + Ruthy conjure "rich, vintage Americana" (Time Out New York). Hailed as one of acoustic America’s most revered musical duos, an evening spent with Mike + Ruthy promises to thrill your senses, raise your spirits and delve deep into your soul.

Michael Merenda and Ruth Ungar have been performing as a duo for 14 years, and married for six. Daughter to Hudson Valley fiddling legend Jay Ungar and folk-singer Lyn Hardy, Ungar was a past steeped in the folk tradition. Mike grew up listening to ska-punk and alternative rock radio in Durham, N.H., dreaming of becoming a songwriter on the political edge. They met in New York City, just out of college, and went on to found "subversive acoustic stringband" The Mammals, along with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. When this folk-rock band split up after seven years, Merenda and Ungar married, then honeymooned in the studio to record a debut duo album aptly called "The Honeymoon Agenda" (2008).


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Two children and three additional albums have followed: "Waltz of the Chickadee" (2009), "Million to One" (2010) and "THE NYC EP" (2012).

But while it is true that it’s Ruth who has the family connections, like many indie-folk musicians today, both Merenda and Ungar perform and record in multiple modes, within and beyond the boundaries of their core pairing. They have established a reputation for breathtaking delivery and intimate performance, with exquisite songs and songcraft that combine catchy folk-pop choruses with honest, organic traditional folk and roots elements. As storytellers, singers, poets and parents (they tour with their small children), Mike + Ruthy are heralds of an American cultural awakening: one that values honesty and togetherness, one that prefers grit to glitz and one that, in the face of an information superhighway, revels in the old-fashioned telling of a story.

Opening the concert is singer/songwriter Brendan Eprile. A senior at Mount Anthony High School in Bennington, Eprile has been playing guitar and writing music since he was 10 years old.

Tickets to this concert are $18 through Brown Paper Tickets, at brownpapertickets.com or vtartxchange.org/bms.php, or by calling (toll free) 800-838-3006 a small processing fee will be charged. Tickets are $22 at the door on the day of show on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dinner and libations are available for sale from Thyme Tables Catering. Call 802-447-3896 for menu options and to place advance orders.

Follow the 2013 season on the Basement Music Series Facebook page (facebook.com/VermontArtsExchange) and on Twitter (BMSatVAE). Up next: Boston’s David Wax Museum performs "Joyful Mexo-Americana fusion, with virtuosic musical skill and virtuous harmonies" (TIME magazine) on May 3. Brooklyn’s Miss Tess and the Talkbacks intermingle melodic and rhythmic improvisation and interplay with elements of honky-tonk, western swing and golden-era pop standards on May 18. The Basement Music Series gets funky with Bennington’s Funk in the Trunk on June 8, and the Chris Bergson Band returns with "Gut-busting, horn-bedecked NY blues" (MOJO) on June 29. On September 8, the world-famous Glenn Miller Orchestra brings big band to North Bennington in a special Basement Music Series concert at Bennington College.

Vermont Arts Exchange is a fully handicapped-accessible facility. For more information about Vermont Arts Exchange, the 2013 Basement Music Series season, vacation art camps, classes or workshops, contact VAE at 802-442-5549 or visit vtartxchange.org.