Thursday, January 7, 2010

Yee-haw! Brooklyn goes country

By Meredith Deliso

JD Duarte catches a lot of shows.

As the man behind the Web site,, he’s scouring the city for bands of all stripes, from country to bluegrass to Americana to cow-punk to rockabilly, to promote for gigs.

“I visit clubs locally and do my best to reach out for bands I have never heard before to get them involved with the festival and the Web site,” says Duarte.

This month, the Brooklynite has united some of the best he’s seen for the Brooklyn County Fair, a seasonal festival. This winter’s will be held at Jalopy in Red Hook, featuring new and old local favorites of Duarte’s: Citigrass, Blue Harvest, The Newton Gang, Uncle Monk and Rooftops.

“I had recently moved to New York and gotten involved with the local country music scene and found myself having trouble booking local gigs with other country bands,” says Duarte of the origins of the festival, which began three years ago at Galapagos Art Space.

The opener of January 16 show – Rooftops – Duarte found at Banjo Jim’s in Manhattan. “They blew me away and I asked them to join the show right away,” he says. They kick things off at 8 p.m., followed by indie-acoustic duo Uncle Monk, featuring Tommy Ramone on vocals, mandolin, guitar, banjo and dobro, and Claudia Tienan (formerly of the group The Simplistics) on vocals, guitar and bass. The pair have played the festival before and were available a second time around and “I jumped at the chance to have them join us again,” says Duarte.

“We do a bunch of original songs in an indie-bluegrass style. We also do some traditional old-time and bluegrass songs,” says Ramone (nee Tom Erdelyi), the last surviving original member of the Ramones, who’s traded in his punk rock roots for, these days, bluegrass. “We are currently recording our second CD, and we are having a great time doing it.”

Duarte didn’t have to look far for the next act. At 10 p.m., the Brooklyn-based Newton Gang, which is fronted by Duarte (pictured), takes Jalopy’s auditorium-like stage. Like their 1920s namesake, The Newton Gang is rooted firmly in the stealth-outlaw tradition, “an outlaw country band,” says the musician. Look for a more acoustic set at this show.

At 11 p.m., it’s another local act with Blue Harvest, who Duarte saw at Parkside Lounge in Manhattan and recruited for the festival. With members whose roots extend to Nashville, the Ozarks, and Appalachia, Blue Harvest is dedicated to exploring the rich heritage of traditional American music, drawing from sources ranging from Bluegrass and Texas Swing to old-time fiddle tunes, Cajun and country blues.

And last but not least on the bill is the Cobble Hill-based Citigrass, which specializes in blending rock and jam influences with traditional bluegrass. In their set, “folks can expect to hear compelling original material, blistering renditions of bluegrass classics, and some of their favorite rock and pop tunes grassed-up Citigrass style,” says Sandy Israel, banjo player and vocalist for the bluegrass band, which is in the studio polishing up their latest CD.

Citigrass was a natural closer for the night, says Duarte. “They bring such an energy and so much talent to the table.”

Duarte first saw them play at Freddy’s Bar in Prospect Heights for the Kings County Opry this past fall. Other recent highlights of the band’s include work on the soundtrack of the new Billy-Bob Thornton movie, “Astronaut Farmer,” sit-ins by Phish bassist Mike Gordon and a private performance for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Suffice it to say, Duarte was not in on that one.

The Brooklyn County Fair is January 16 at 9 p.m. at Jalopy (315 Columbia St.). Tickets are $10. The event will also feature a new ale by Sixpoint Craft Ale, one of the event’s sponsors, on tap at Jalopy. For more information, go to or call 718-395-3214.


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