Michael Fracasso with BettySoo presented by Rainshadow Concerts

Tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

Direct ticket link: https://www.ticketstorm.com/event/michaelfracassowithbettysoo/palindromeporttownsendeventcenter/porttownsend/28219/

On Thursday, October 19 at 7:30 pm, Rainshadow Concerts presents Michael Fracasso with BettySoo at the Palindrome at 7:30pm.

MICHAEL FRACASSO

Michael Fracasso is a genre-crossing artist incapable of repeating himself. His critically acclaimed work includes nine distinctive solo CDs, recorded duets with both Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams, an epic reinterpretation of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” memorable tributes to Woody Guthrie, Mickey Newbury and Townes Van Zandt, two created alongside his gifted friend/producer/guitarist Charlie Sexton (Back To Oklahoma and World In A Drop Of Water). In 2011 he was short-listed for the Austin Public Library Award for literary achievement.

Michael Fracasso is the first member of his Italian family born in the United States and was raised in the hardscrabble steel town of Steubenville, Ohio. (Think Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter, which used the working-class hub as a filming location.) An introspective kid who adored music and harbored an interest in the nascent ecology movement—his first song, written in high school, was titled “Pollution Blues”—Fracasso never really jibed with the environmentally wrecked city where football reigned supreme. He worked, uncomfortably, for a spell in the mills, studied environmental science at Ohio State and entered grad school at Washington State University—an attempt, Fracasso admits, “to get as far away from where I was as possible.” That influence can be heard on Michael’s sophomore release, When I Lived in the Wild (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9I7Ggq3tNJnUOlNjGL-ddQfEVSsMOtlg&si=fIByO4tLJ7hCOgiQ).

In order to turn his songwriting habit into more frequent live performances and perhaps an actual career in music, he left grad school early and headed to New York City.

In New York, Fracasso took part in the influential songwriters’ scene that coalesced around the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. There, he refined his material among wordsmiths like his friend Suzanne Vega, Jack Hardy, Lucy Kaplansky and Steve Forbert. He got a gig at Kenny’s Castaways, but it came with a catch: No English-major folkie stuff—you need to be fronting a band. An open-mic acquaintance helped Fracasso collect musicians, and introduced him to the game-changing rock, roots, pop and new wave happening in venues like CBGB and the Mudd Club. That version of New York music better suited Fracasso’s dynamic amalgam of influences than did the poetry workshops he’d been immersed in; in addition to the likes of the Beatles, Paul Simon, Neil Young and Lou Reed, his songwriting took crucial cues from what he terms the “brutal simplicity” of bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf. He forged ahead and began learning how to lead a unit and get a rowdier room on his side. One night a fan—who also happened to be employed as a major-label A&R rep—gave it to him straight: He was brilliant, but New York wasn’t the place where his rootsier sound could gain a foothold. In 1990, Fracasso moved to Austin.

He’d gotten a taste of Austin’s wonderfully diverse scene back in New York, taking in shows by Butthole Surfers, Kinky Friedman, Joe Ely and others, but he’d only ever driven through the city once before he settled there. Still, it didn’t take long before the move proved fruitful. That lithe rock-and-roll voice and those brainy yet bar-friendly tunes earned Fracasso buzz around town straight away. In 1993, through the respected Austin-based indie Dejadisc, he made a belated but auspicious debut with Love & Trust, featuring a duet with Lucinda Williams. More name-making successes would follow in the years ahead: a tune co-written with Alejandro Escovedo; spots in all-star tributes to Woody Guthrie, Mickey Newbury and Townes Van Zandt; and five additional critically worshipped albums, including the more recent triumphs Saint Monday—one of the two Fracasso records boasting a duet with Patty Griffin—and Here Come the Savages. “His songwriting remains impressive,” the Austin Chronicle wrote of Savages, “but with the addition of some well-chosen and often unexpected covers, he delves into his feelings of love, loss, and mixed emotions deeper than before.”

For Fracasso, his discography is also a sort of ongoing journal. “Every album of mine encompasses some period in my life, and I really love that about them. But I don’t mind playing any of my songs from any period,” he explains. Much of World in a Drop of Water came to him on a wave of anger and frustration, and Big Top too reflects a certain thematic darkness or cynicism. “Sometimes I think about the person I was back then,” he says. “We all change, and I couldn’t get back there to write those songs again. They were of a time and place for me.”

Indeed, Fracasso’s life today is transformed. He’s a proud father with a thriving cooking career that dovetails comfortably with his music including innovative combined cooking/singing performances. In 2013 he released a book, Artist in the Kitchen: A Brief Autobiography in Food, detailing this lifelong passion, and his late-night feasts, prepared after gigs for an exclusive coterie of musicians and pals, have entered Austin’s lore.

There have been downs too, including a divorce and the 2017 death of his devoted bassist and dear friend George Reiff, who appears on Big Top. In fact, it was at Reiff’s memorial, which Sexton directed, where Lucky Hound A&R rep Michael Ramos was stunned by these songs. Fracasso is excited, and relieved, that the work is finally out there, though his unassuming nature doesn’t leave much room for self-promotion. “It was a collaboration that just kind of existed in a time,” he shrugs. “I think it speaks for itself.”

BETTYSOO

https://www.youtube.com/@bettysoomusic

It’s the voice that gets you first…

“BettySoo may well have the most gorgeous voice in Texas …if not in all contemporary folk – its purity and strength can be downright devastating.” – ACOUSTIC GUITAR

BettySoo’s vocal prowess is a thing of wonder. A world-class instrument of deft phrasing and purity, a voice that knows when to hold back and when to dive in. At her own live shows, taking a verse onstage with friends or singing harmonies in sessions with Austin’s finest, BettySoo sings with consummate loveliness and self-assurance. A voice that knows the roots of American music inside and out; coming from a most unexpected place – a diminutive Korean-American with a deceptively girl-next-door demeanor. Then the performance reels you in…

“Truly remarkable. BettySoo’s sharp, often self-deprecating humor skillfully wove the songs together. Her clear, evocative voice and poignant lyrics recall Patty Griffin and Joni Mitchell, and did I mention she’s a hell of a guitar player?”
NO DEPRESSION, live concert review

Touring the unforgiving circuit of listening rooms, clubs and festivals, BettySoo has mastered the art of performance. A funny anecdote sets up a song of heartbreak and need; a witty rejoinder belies the dark truths that underpin much of her work.
And that’s when you notice the songs…

“BettySoo’s ‘How To Live Alone’ is one of the best songs written in Austin during my final decade here.” – PETER BLACKSTOCK

“Beautiful, heart-wrenching songwriting that is also edgy and unwavering.” – KUT, Austin

“Exceptionally well written and arranged songs with a confidence that speaks volumes.” – AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

They call it the live music capital of the world. Austin, Texas, is a city where the musical bar is set high. Since exploding on the Austin scene a decade ago, BettySoo has carved out an enviable niche among the very best the city has to offer.
BettySoo was raised outside Houston by first-generation Korean immigrant parents, She grew up listening to the Great American songbook and country radio. Older sisters led her to the world of singer/songwriters, and nights spent at The Cactus Café and Hole In The Wall turned her on to the legacy of Texas song. Now BettySoo tours nonstop, these days either as a solo headliner or as dedicated support for James McMurtry and Chris Smither. Along with her agile guitar playing, her intelligent, tightly-constructed lyrics and captivating melodies keep audiences entranced, and if you’re lucky, you’ll also find her onstage demonstrating her other super-power when she is singing harmonies with various luminaries.

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