Williams Center folk show showcases veteran NJ artists and new voices

JOHN dull review


From left, Ted Clancy, Martin Dull, David Rimelis, John Dull, Loretta Hagen and Kyle Hancharick perform at The Williams Center in Rutherford, Nov. 12.

The Williams Center in Rutherford seems busier than ever these days, with a steady stream of comedy and film offerings, plus an eclectic mix of music, including folk. On Nov. 12, a full house turned out for an afternoon show by John Dull & Friends.

Dull is a singer-songwriter and concert promoter who has had a strong presence on the New Jersey folk scene for decades. Joining him at this show were singer-songwriters Loretta Hagen, Kyle Hancharick and Martin Dull (John’s son), plus others including multi-instrumentalist David Rimelis and guitarist and bassist Ted Clancy.


John Dull at The Williams Center.

The show opened with John Dull’s solo, a cappella version of “I Come and Stand at Every Door,” an anti-war anthem that features the English translation of a 1950s poem by Nâzim Hikmet of Turkey that had been put to music and popularized by Pete Seeger and others. Dull mentioned that he had produced eight different concerts at which Seeger performed — and many other multi-artist folk shows — at the Williams Center and elsewhere, since the 1980s.

“What you see tonight will be a continuation of that idea: Multiple styles but they all come from a common root,” Dull said.

Backing himself on guitar, and with Rimelis adding a heartbreaking violin part, Dull also sang “Don’t Laugh at Me,” the anti-bullying protest song that was written by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin, and became a hit for country artist Mark Wills in 1998.

After a third song — a lighter, singalong drinking song — Dull introduced the next artist, singer-songwriter (and Rutherford native) Loretta Hagen, backed by her husband Gary on guitar, Debby Maggiulli on vocals and percussion, Teri Avella on bass and Linda Lambiase on percussion. Hagen’s gracefully melodic songs had more of a personal, introspective flavor than Dull’s mini-set, though there was a strong environmental theme to “This World of Ours,” and some inspirational uplift to “Hello Mountain (Ode to Bearfort Mountain).”

Hagen introduced the next artist, singer-songwriter Kyle Hancharick, with a story about seeing him perform as a teenager at Music at the Mission in West Milford. He “blew us all away,” she said. “And each year he got better and better.”

He’s now an adult, with an album and an EP, a second full-length album on the way, and a song, “How You Say Goodbye,” that was covered by Ellis Paul on Paul’s 2019 album The Storyteller’s Suitcase. His short set ended with that song — which utilizes a clever baseball metaphor, though it’s actually about ending a relationship — and also included a new song, “Our Satisfaction,” that’s an anthem for the folk scene in general.

“Me and you and all our friends, who come together, souls in hand, we tell our stories, share reactions, it’s where we get our satisfactions,” he sang.


Martin Dull at The Williams Center.

After a short intermission, the show continued with a band set by Martin Dull, backed by Rimelis, Clancy, percussionist Alex Zetelski and, on some songs, John Dull on backing vocals. The songs added some rock-influenced urgency and angst to a concert that was generally, otherwise, pretty gentle and low-key. One song, titled “Touchy Feely Was Never My Cup of Tea,” sounded like pure emo to me.

At another point, though, Martin Dull said that in keeping with the fact that this was a folk concert, “I’d like to bring that theme full circle and play a traditional folk tune that has passed through many hands and many generations.” He then played an intense version of “In the Pines,” the traditional song that was covered by Nirvana on their MTV Unplugged in New York album (under the title, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”).

And the end of Dull’s set, he and his father shared lead vocals on Pete Seeger’s poetic, inspirational call-and-response song, “Quite Early Morning,” after John Dull talked about visiting Seeger, and hearing him sing the song, shortly before his 2014 death. Then a rousing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” — with Rimelis, Hagen and Hancharick singing lead on one verse apiece, and all the show’s other participants onstage as well — was the grand finale.

The next multi-artist show that John Dull will present will take place on April 27, with a lineup to be announced. For information and updates, visit dullmusic.com.


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