Demolition String Band and guests to play country classics at free Hoboken show

by CINDY STAGOFF

The Demolition String Band (from left, Boo Reiners, Elena Skye, Winston Roye and Kenny Soule).

The Demolition String Band will host a free night of classic country music under the starry sky at Hoboken’s Frank Sinatra Park, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m., as part of the city’s Concerts in the Park series.

The Demolition String Band (Elena Skye, Boo Reiners, Kenny Soule, Winston Roye and Jeremy Beck) will be joined by abundantly talented guest performers including Laura Cantrell, Karyn Kuhl, Tammy Faye Starlite, Queen Esther, Jon and Deena of The Cucumbers, Heidi Leib and Steve Strunsky of the Lonesome Prairie Dogs, Glenn Morrow, Rebecca Turner, Joanna Choy and John Brodeur, John Bauers of Swingadelic, Ed Fogarty, Dave Calamoneri, Jaime Della Fave and Carlos Haase.

They will cover songs by beloved country artists including Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kitty Wells and Waylon Jennings.

Skye and Reiners’ recording of “Go Coney Island, Roll on the Sand,” featuring words by Woody Guthrie and music by Skye, appeared on the three-CD audiobook My Name Is New York: Ramblin’ Round Woody Guthrie’s Town, which also featured material by Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan and others. They also recorded a tribute album to Ola Belle Reed titled Where the Wild, Wild Flowers Grow.

MICKEY DENEHER

Boo Reiners and Elena Skye.

The Demolition String Band “has a long history of producing and hosting tribute nights going back to our Rodeo Bar days in New York in the early 2000s and at the Lower East Side venue Banjo Jim’s,” said Skye. “We’ve done quite a few here in Hoboken at Maxwell’s and for (Hoboken administrator of cultural affairs) Geri (Fallo) at Sinatra Park, and up in Jamaica, Vermont, at the Jamaica Town Hall.”

They have hosted tribute concerts, she said, “to artists like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Buck Owens, The Carter Family, Merle Haggard, Creedence Clearwater Revival — Ryan Adams showed up for that one! — Glen Campbell, Kris Kristofferson, Ola Belle Reed, Blaze Foley, even The Monkees.”

They also hosted mandolin festivals (the first one featured Tommy Ramone of The Ramones with his folk/bluegrass duo Uncle Monk) as well as fundraisers for the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and Neighborhood Connections, a Vermont organization that helps families in need.

Skye follows in the footsteps of her father, who hosted folk shows at the University of Chicago when she was very young.

“I have memories of running around, hiding under the folding chairs, fascinated by the crowds and the music,” she said. “I guess that’s when I fell in love with the idea of organizing events like this, bringing people together to share music. Although this one is focused on the genre itself, most of our tribute nights have been a chance to do a deep dive into one artist’s music. But in either case, I love the excitement of everyone getting together, the appreciation we feel for each other and for the audience and the diversity of talent.

“I’ve just always been drawn to creating nights where we can get together with musicians we know and love but rarely get to see live because we’re all so busy with our own gigs and hectic lives.”

Some of the planned songs for the evening include Skye and Reiners singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (The Carter Family), “Jackson” (Cash and June Carter), “Rhinestone Cowboy” (Campbell) and “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” (Lynn).

Kuhl will belt out “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (Williams) and Queen Esther will croon “Stand by Your Man” (Tammy Wynette) and her own “The Whiskey Wouldn’t Let Me Pray.”

LIZ TORMES

LAURA CANTRELL

Cantrell will sing Wells’ “I Don’t Claim to Be an Angel” and her own “Kitty Wells Dresses.” Starlite will bring her impassioned voice to Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn” and Williams’ “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You).” And Jon & Deena will serenade the crowd with Haggard’s “Silver Wings.”

After being exposed to folk and bluegrass at a young age, Skye said, “I fell in love specifically with bluegrass after seeing J.D. Crowe & the New South at The University of Chicago and ended up playing with a bluegrass band, Central Standard Time, when I was 15 years old.

“I took lessons with Jethro Burns of Homer & Jethro, a musical comedy duo from the ’40s and ’50s known for their song satires and for Jethro’s virtuosic mandolin playing. And from there I developed a love for classic country artists, especially Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, The Louvin Brothers, George Jones, Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams. I love the emotional power of their lyrics, the twangy sounds of their voices, the emphasis on harmony.

“Boo grew up in North Carolina and Virginia and started playing banjo when he was in his teens. He loved and followed the Grateful Dead and, interestingly enough, through them was exposed to a lot of classic country.”

They met at Skye’s Hoboken bookstore Blackwater Books in the ’90s and connected over their love of bluegrass and country that not many of their contemporaries shared.

They “started very casually to play together after hours in the store,” Skye said. “We were both in rock bands at the time — Boo in Sweet Lizard Illtet and me in BelleSkye — but the bluegrass sound we were creating was catching on, especially after (the 2000 movie) ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ with its folk and bluegrass soundtrack came out, and our band started heating up.

“Soon we were recording an album that was released on an independent label out of Vermont, North Hollow Records, and touring.”

Skye credits Fallo with coming up the evening’s focus.

“She approached me after seeing Karyn Kuhl and I perform a Hank Williams song during (Kuhl’s) set at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser at Cafe Vista,” Skye said. “Geri thought it’d be fun to have a whole night of well-known country music songs with lots of local artists as part of the Sinatra Park series and although I thought I was done producing these kinds of nights, how could I resist?”

In the event of rain, the event will be moved to the Hoboken High School auditorium at 800 Clinton St. For more information on the show, email Skye at elenaskye11@gmail.com. For more on the Demolition String Band, visit elenaandboo.com.

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