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Ritter to rock Rosendale
by Haven James

Artist: Leslie Ritter and Scott Petito

The Rosendale Cafe continues its string of star-studded entertainment this Saturday, May 23, featuring the appearance of Woodstock favorites Leslie Ritter and Scott Petito. Monster guitarist Mike DeMicco and orbiting drummer Dean Sharp will join them for Leslie's debut performance at the club, and the plan in part is to offer a preview of Leslie and Scott's upcoming album on Hudson Valley Records, In The Silence

The duo have been writing together for a few years and "this is the first published version," Leslie reports. A few covers will be tossed into the show's mix, including one duet with DeMicco and Ritter doing "When I Fall In Love" and another with Leslie singing and Scott playing bass on an Allen Ginsberg rewrite of the lyrics to "Amazing Grace," but by and large, the mass of the material will be original.

"We'll do a bunch of things from the record, kind of like Amy and I [used to do] and probably more so; the tunes span a good range," says Ritter, referring, of course, to her lengthy partnership with Amy Fradon. Leslie is well-known for her Celtic-flavored rounds and haunting vocalizations. "I tend to lean toward that vibe," she confesses, noting there'll be "a couple of old Amy and Leslie tunes that are done in a new form," but also "a couple of jazzier tunes ... some fairly contemporary folk tunes, and some pop stuff. It's a shmear."

The gig, she adds, is about "a group of versatile musicians [who] are into a lot of different styles of music, mooshing it all together. There are moments when it's really about the players and I step aside and they do their thing, and then I tell a story." Maybe more to the point is her observation that "there's a maturity to the music that I haven't had before."

As to DeMicco, one would be hard pressed to find fault with his playing. A player's player, Mike can run notes up a Maypole till there's no need at all for ribbons and flowers, the music swirling and cascading like a waterfall of sound all around. But he's moved, not to a kinder, gentler place, but to one that sees the simplicity of a scene and can still build an incredibly intricate foundation for it to stand on without it appearing to be the least bit complex.

Citing Warren Bernhardt as a major influence and mentor, DeMicco acknowledges that the hard part is making it simple, and this from a guy who is known for his amazing jazz improvs with the Dolphins. He's done a lot of work on the singer/songwriter scene of late with other artists like Rory Block, and has found that responding to the lyric and supporting the statement of the song has provided an invaluable key. "Mike is such a phenomenal player," says Leslie. "One minute he's doing kind of soundscapes on the guitar and creates a vibe with it, and at other times he's playing notes like only Mike DeMicco does. He has to cover the chords when Scott's playing bass. He gets to play a pretty broad range of what he's able to do on the guitar at this gig so it's nice, because he's a very versatile guitarist, he can play a lot of different styles. People know him certainly as a jazz guitarist, but he goes beyond."

As to the vocals, "I am the singer," says Leslie. Scott does join in for one cut on the upcoming record, but at the gigs, it's all Leslie. For her, too, there are some new twists to this turn in the music. "Usually my songwriting has come from inspiration in the past--`Oh here comes a song, isn't that nice, thank you so much.' But I worked on a lot of these because Scott had some music that needed lyrics and I had to come up with them; it was a challenge, and I'm pretty proud of a lot of it." She's also branched out a bit in terms of her focus, noting, "There are a few story songs which I'm not used to doing. I've been a fairly self-absorbed lyricist [laughing], so there are some self-absorbed tunes, but I branched out and started writing in the third person and it was great to get a little objectivity." Most Woodstockers are already aware of Ritter's vocal qualities; for the first-timers thinking of heading to Rosendale this Saturday, do be assured: the lady can sing. We're talking angelic choir here.

And then there's the venue. "It's one of the nicest places to hear music that I know of, really homey," says Ritter of the Rosendale Cafe. "It's so cozy, I was really taken by the place. It's very intimate and warm, [and has a] nice unthreatening vibe, for audience members, and performers." The club's entertainment director, Mark Morgenstern, concurs, adding, "If you're gonna do music, you've got to love it." Leslie confirms Mark is "doin' a good thing there, [he] is such a lover of music."

There's a lot to do this Memorial Day weekend, but if you're looking for dinner and some inspiring music, this might be your choice. The Rosendale Cafe is located at 435 Main Street in Rosendale. It's a smoke-free zone and the music starts at 9 p.m. There's a $6 cover.

Haven James has been a consistent contributor to the Music & Arts scene around the Hudson Valley and beyond for almost a decade through his column, Werewolves of Woodstock, published weekly in the Woodstock Times

A writer, musician, philanthropist, and Mac addict; he lives reclusively, high atop Overlook Mountain with his son and a menagerie of animals, both wild and domesticated. Though currently unmarried, rumors abound as to his intimate relationships with Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eli Bach; though he insists these notions to be pure hearsay. His identity has remained a mystery to all but the closest of friends as he often travels in disguise and appears unannounced and undercover at concerts and venues in a dedicated effort to get the real story.

Go to the Werewolves of Woodstock page for more articles by Haven James.
Haven James can be contacted at

Posted on May 22, 1998

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