Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Music Road trip in New Jersey

From the pine barrens to the Jersey shore to the big cities, New Jersey has been a state of immigrants, and of working class heroes. You’re probably already thinking of several musicians whose work fits those definitions. As the Great American Road Trip visits New Jersey, here are two you may be less familiar with.

Buddy Connolly is first generation Irish American. He’s traveled the United States and the world as a band member and side musician with Tim O’Brien, Kathy Mattea, Ceili Rain, Jo-el Sonnier, and others, and you can hear his work on accordion, keyboards, and backing vocals on their recordings, as well. Most recently, he’s been working with fiddle player and composer Eileen Ivers. One of their recent projects has been the Beyond the Bog Road tour. The music, both original and traditional, traces Irish history from the famine times to the crossings to America, through the happy and sad times of immigrant life up until the vibrant interactions of Irish music with urban energy today.

“I loved hearing comments after the show, that people learned something, maybe a fact about Irish history, or maybe about the similarities we share with African American, or Cajun folks, or other immigrants,” Ivers said. Connolly’s musical experiences in the melting pots of New Jersey and Nashville made him well suited for the project. A recording of the music is in the works, and you may also get an idea of what the band’s music is like on Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul.

John Gorka takes a rather wry view of things in his home state. One of his signature songs begins “I’m from New Jersey, I don’t expect too much.” He’s been making his living as a musician and well respected songwriter for several decades now, though, with songs that have both lighter and darker sides to them, so even if still he doesn’t expect it things could be going right.
There are more of his reflections on New Jersey life in his album Pure John Gorka.

This is part of The Great American Road Trip, in which I originally partnered up with A Traveler’s Library to add musical ideas to the book and film suggestions for journeys through the regions of the United States which you’d find there. The Library is closed now, but I think you will still find the journeys through music interesting. For more about the road trip (and a look at some great road songs) see Great American Road Trip: Music begins

you may also wish to see

Music Road: now playing: Eileen Ivers: An Nollaig

Music Road: Music road trip New York City: Irish Musicians

Music Road: Voices: Cherish the Ladies

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous v said...

I love the way you can find native musicians from every state. We should start a game of "stump Kerry."

9:06 PM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

made me smile -- but no games, just music. I always think it's interesting how landscape, creativity, and artist interact.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Alexandra Grabbe said...

What about Bruce Springsteen? I can't think Jersey shore without his "Jersey Girl" popping into my head. Bruce may not have any connection to Irish music, but, in my book, no road trip to NJ should leave the State without a small mention, at least, of this local hero, whom I was fortunate enough to meet during my own brief career in radio.

8:55 AM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

that's what I meant by 'you're probably already thinking of..'

Bruce Spirngsteen, as you point out, Frank Sinatra, and Connie Francis, are three I had in mind when saying that. There are others with strong NJ connections I expect people will weigh in on, as well.

thanks for your comment.

11:22 AM  

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