Editor’s note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event is being rescheduled for fall 2020. Stay tuned for details!
On Thursday, May 28, 2020, musicians Laurie Lewis and Suzy Thompson will be joined by some of the finest acoustic musicians from the East Bay and beyond for the fourth annual “River of Song: A Musical Celebration of California’s Life-Giving Waters,” a special concert to benefit Friends of the River and Foothill Conservancy. The concert will be held at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, beginning at 8 p.m.
The annual “River of Song” benefit concert was initiated by Berkeley musician Suzy Thompson. “Up in the Sierra, there’s a spring-fed pond where we love to swim,” Suzy said. “Eric and I have gone there every summer for more than 40 years to make music with friends and commune with nature. The way that pond changes from year to year, depending on rainfall, always drives home to me how precious our California water is. With Laurie’s deep love for California’s rivers, it was a natural to get her involved with putting together this benefit show.”
California rivers have long been an integral part of Grammy-winning bluegrass musician Laurie Lewis’s world. “Our bodies are composed of about 60 percent water. And 90 percent of our Bay Area water comes from the snowy peaks of the high Sierra “Laurie recently noted. (Editor’s note: that’s our Mokelumne!), “For me, it has become a calling to try and do what I can to protect these free-flowing rivers and help ensure that all beings, human and otherwise, have access to good drinking water.” For more than 25 years, Laurie has been sharing her love of rivers with others through her music and rafting trips. She is a graduate of Friends of the River’s River Advocacy Training School.
Musicians performing in this year’s River of Song include Lewis, The Pam and Jeri Show with Chris Webster, and Thompsonia -- Suzy, Eric and Allegra Thompson. The evening will feature songs about water and rivers in styles ranging from bluegrass to folk to blues.
Laurie Lewis is one of the most acclaimed and accomplished performers on the acoustic-music scene today. A stirring vocalist, gifted songwriter, champion fiddler, and topnotch bandleader, she has won a Grammy and twice been named Female Vocalist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. With more than 20 solo, duo and band albums to her credit, she will soon release …and Laurie Lewis (Spruce and Maple Music), a winning collection of duets with some of her favorite musicians.
The Pam and Jeri Show, made up of Pam Delgado and Jeri Jones, founding members of the Indie Americana band Blame Sally, have become an underground phenomenon in the San Francisco Bay Area. They combine equal parts humor, raw emotion, and unparalleled musicianship, tempered by life's lessons. Their original songs have had national airplay including feature and mainstream rotation on San Francisco's KFOG and Starbucks XM Cafe. Soul singer Chris Webster, who will join Pam and Jeri, has a voice that conveys a passion that connects with the longings of her audience. Webster’s emotional range reaches from pain to hope, and her voice can be a compassionate balm to the troubled soul. Performing live, her intensity brings a hush to every room she plays. Those who see her hear it: Chris Webster is the real deal, a singer who transcends genre.
Thompsonia combines Eric and Suzy Thompson’s deep devotion to old-time, bluegrass, Cajun, and acoustic blues with daughter Allegra’s fresh perspective, creating feel-good music that ricochets between the rowdy and the sentimental, with an abundance of groove and a bit of a quirky edge. The band features the genetically matched vocals of Suzy and Allegra (which Geoff Muldaur has dubbed the “The Everly Sisters sound”) along with stellar lead playing from Eric on mandolin and guitar, Suzy’s red-hot fiddling, and Allegra’s rock-steady upright bass.
“We are so grateful for the support River of Song provides,” said Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Sherry Pease. “Our grassroots organization has worked for the Mokelumne River for 30 years, and our efforts to protect the river help protect the East Bay’s water quality. We’re excited to have the opportunity to meet East Bay water consumers and talk about the beautiful California Wild and Scenic River that sustains East Bay communities.”