The Acoustic Brew Concerts series will continue Oct. 22 with Maine’s Jud Caswell, a one-man folk festival complete with banjo picking, Irish drinking songs, a rack of acoustic instruments and a deep catalog of award-winning originals.
Caswell draws on a long musical history and wide-ranging influences with his songs, from jazz and Piedmont blues to contemporary folk and rock. He recently released his sixth collection, “Watch The Fall,” which is his first CD of new material since 2007. The years between have been full of music and focusing on family, friends and community.
Caswell was born on a little farm in Maine, on land that had been in his mother’s family for generations. His earliest memories are full of goats and sheep, pulling carrots and chasing frogs. But there was always a lot of music in his life, mostly, at first, from the record player.
“I can still see the stack of records: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits (Volumes 1 and 2), James Taylor’s ‘Mud Slide Slim,’ Cat Stevens’ ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ — and the list goes on and on,” he said. “Another early influence was Gordon Bok — we played his records until they were more scratch than song. By the time I was 3 or 4, I had this deep exposure to acoustic folk music, from the singer-songwriter vein to the more traditionalist, seafaring and Celtic/British styles.”
For years Caswell’s life was full of classical and jazz music, as he began making music playing saxophone and bassoon.
“After high school I heard John Gorka and all those deep-seated folk songs just came rushing back,” he said. “I picked up the acoustic guitar and have been trying to make my own songs ever since.”
While Caswell is a lifelong musician, it wasn’t until 2004 that he was able to pursue music full time. By 2008, he had made a name for himself on the national folk circuit, playing folk festivals from Texas to Oregon and winning some of the best songwriting contests in the country. His 2007 release, “Blackberry Time,” was a folk DJ favorite.
One of the things Caswell loves about being a solo acoustic performer is the freedom to draw from lots of different influences, to play with rhythms and styles and to find ways to let each individual song speak in its own native tongue.
“There’s worlds of sounds that can be drawn just from an acoustic guitar — from folk and Piedmont blues to jazz and rock — and that’s a big part of what I want to do as a performer,” he said. “I’ve used alternate tunings and capos and lots of different techniques to pull my songs out of that instrument.”
In the past few years Caswell has added a handful of other instruments to his shows, including the clawhammer banjo, particularly as a vehicle for Irish songs.
“I have also been lucky to get to know a builder named Nick Apollonio, who has made instruments for Gordon Bok for decades,” he said. “I am playing one of Nick’s 12-string guitars now, as well as a Bok/Apollonio-designed ‘Bell Cittern,’ which is a 10-stringed instrument with a really striking voice.”
The Acoustic Brew show will feature Caswell’s songs from “Watch the Fall,” but he will also perform some old favorites and some newer originals that haven’t been recorded yet.
“I’ll bring out some familiar Irish songs too, and maybe grab a whistle for some jigs and reels,” he said. “I love keeping the show flowing, so expect a lot of different sounds.”
Caswell said he is looking forward to being back in Pennsylvania and getting to perform for fans and friends of acoustic music.
“As a Mainer, I have a lot of pride and love for my home state, but I have to admit that every time I’m in Pa. I find myself thinking, ‘this is a place I could call home,’” he said. “My hopes for the tour are to see old friends and make new ones. Acoustic Brew is a fantastic organization, and I’m particularly excited about sharing songs and making music in that space.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Acoustic Brew Concerts: Jud Caswell
- When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22
- Where: Center for Well Being, 123 Mount Nittany Road, Lemont
- Info: www.centerforwellbeing.net