Guilford’s Joe Flood Plays at the Guilford Free Library
From co-writing songs with The Band's Levon Helm to playing recent gigs with legendary members Eric "Roscoe" Ambel and Garth Hudson, Joe Flood's life in music has gifted him with stories to tell-and songs to write, play, and sing.
On Thursday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m., the Guilford resident shares his gifts during "Guilford's Joe Flood-A New Kind of Blue" at Guilford Free Library (GFL). The free performance celebrates Joe's latest CD, New Kind of Blue.
The multi-talented artist plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and stand-up bass (to name just a few instruments), but that's just one side to Joe, a singer/song writer/recording artist whom The New York Times described as having "a gravelly voice that perfectly straddles the fence between country and blues."
He's written songs covered by alternative country singer Laura Cantrell and New York roots scene artists including friend Joan Osborne. Osborne recorded Joe's "Miss Fabulous." It was recorded by another old friend, Jono Manson, and featured in the film Kingpin.
Joe's jazz stylings made him an integral part of the New York City swing scene in the 1980s. His bands have included New York-based Mumbo Gumbo and The Dogs as well as his longtime association with the world-famous Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band, which Joe first joined in the streets of Europe.
"A lot of people have gone through that group. Dan Fitzgerald, the leader, is like the Art Blakey of the busking world. Joan Osborne sang in that group…Madeleine Peyroux came out of it," says Joe.
The Portland native's been playing gigs from street music to stage and studio sessions since age 18. Early on, Joe "busked" (playing street music for tips) in 46 states, from San Francisco to New Orleans, Boston to New York. He lived and played in Europe for about eight years
Joe settled in New York in 1988 and might have remained steeped in the music scene if fate-and Guilford-hadn't intervened. About 17 years ago, he and his wife, artist Liz Grace, visited town.
"We were talking about moving out of the city and we came to Guilford one day to meet my aunt for dinner," says Joe.
The couple spotted a "for rent" sign on Whitfield Street and found their first Guilford home. It was just a short walk to GFL and Joe, who decided to return to school, became a well-known reference room patron.
"I'd never gone to college because I'd started playing music. When our kids were born, I went back to school," says Joe, of kids Liam Grace-Flood and Nora Grace-Flood.
Joe completed university degrees with distance-learning courses (GFL reference librarians proctored his many exams). He followed his knack for learning languages, earning teaching certifications in French and Spanish.
Today, Joe teaches Spanish at A.W. Cox Elementary School, where "every class starts with a song." He recently authored an entry on children's songs and games for the Encyclopedia of Latino Folklore.
Joe also continues playing, writing, and recording while completing his romance languages master's thesis at SCSU. His thesis work, translating lyrics of mid-20th-century French folk artist Georges Brassens, is also musically inspiring.
"I'm translating several of his songs and records and, when I get my master's, I'll have a new album, too," he says.
Joe may even throw in a translated Brassens song for his GFL audience. He'll definitely share from New Kind of Blue, with songs carrying at their heart the classic country-blues sound Joe does so well. Joe recorded it with friends including Ambel, the CD's producer.
In July, Joe released New Kind of Blue with a stage performance at Old Saybrook's The Kate, joined by Hudson, Ambel, and longtime friends Maud Hudson, Greg Trooper, and Mike Foley.
On Jan. 16, Joe played Lakeside Lounge in New York with Ambel, Mark Dann, and Diego Voglino. Following GFL, he'll play Clinton's Chamard Vineyards on Friday, Feb. 4, then re-group with the Lost Wandering Blues & Jazz Band at The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, on Friday, Feb. 18.
A street performer deep down, Joe says he loves playing on stage, but also enjoys playing solo, whether it's acoustic or "just plug in and play."
"I played a lot in New York as an opener and I got in the habit of liking that," he says. "It's simple."
Guilford's Joe Flood-A New Kind of Blue, a free performance, is Thursday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. at Guilford Free Library, 67 Park Street. Register in advance at www.guilfordfreelibrary.org, by calling 203-453-8282, or visiting the library. To learn more about Joe Flood's other upcoming appearances, New Kind of Blue, or other Joe Flood CDs, visit www.joeflood.net
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