Weekender

Americana, folk and country intersect in singer-songwriter Greg Trooper’s music

Greg Trooper will perform on Friday as part of the Untangled Strings Concert Series at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County.
Greg Trooper will perform on Friday as part of the Untangled Strings Concert Series at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. Photo provided

The Untangled Strings Concert Series welcomes singer-songwriter Greg Trooper back to State College for a performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County.

Trooper grew up in Little Silver, N.J., and had varied interests in music — those he discovered both on his own and through his parents. When he was young he liked cowboy songs and was attracted by the sound of the recordings and the descriptive lyrics.

“I also got into Louis Armstrong,” he said. “I must have seen him on TV, and the passion of the man just overwhelmed me. I was so into it my parents bought me a bugle. Why a bugle and not a trumpet I’ll never know. I did take trumpet lessons but was reluctant to practice. I regret putting it down to this day.”

As he got older, it was the radio that brought Trooper the blues and rock ’n’ roll by way of the British Invasion and soul music, which flooded the airwaves during the 1960s.

“Then came Dylan and all the singer-songwriters after him,” he said. “I’d say once I picked up the guitar and started playing and singing, it was John Prine as a songwriter I was most influenced by.”

Now based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Trooper excels at character studies, painting wonderful portraits of people living through good times and bad times. His matter-of-fact delivery — as both a singer and a songwriter — brings a sense of realism to the tales that he tells.

Trooper, 60, spends more than half the year on the road playing festivals, theaters, listening rooms and house concerts. He has played in State College previously, opening for Steve Earle at The State Theatre and giving a performance for the Acoustic Brew concert series at the Center for Well Being in Lemont.

Among the musical styles Trooper incorporates into his repertoire are country, folk and Americana, with an intersection of Memphis soul, Greenwich Village folk and Texas troubadour.

“I listen to many styles of music, and as I write, some of those styles sneak their way into the songs,” he said. “I don’t do much premeditation; it happens in a more organic way.”

In addition to acoustic guitar, his main instrument, Trooper also plays mandolin, harmonica and piano.

Trooper’s songs have been recorded by numerous artists, including Vince Gill, Earle, Billy Bragg, Robert Earl Keen, Maura O’Connell, Lucy Kaplansky, Tom Russell and Walt and Tina Wilkins. On previous albums he’s had help with harmony vocals from the likes of Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash.

For Untangled Strings, Trooper will perform a cross section of songs from the span of his career, with a number from his latest record, “Live at The Rock Room,” a concert he recorded in Austin, Texas, last year.

As a live performer, Trooper has been described as articulate, quick-witted, extremely musical, outrageous, compassionate and kind. He writes songs with the intention of performing them.

“If I feel like I’ve reached the audience and made some connection with them, I go home feeling satisfied,” he said. “The audiences at my shows all seem to be song lovers — they seem to be looking to get wrapped up and captured by the lyric and emotion of a song. If and when I deliver that they always let me know — so it’s a good day on the job.”

Trooper says his goals have both changed and stayed the same over the years. Even though he feels he may have missed his opportunity to have a breakthrough record that sells millions and wins awards, he continues to devote himself to working and writing what he believes to be his best material.

“My goal is to keep on making music until it loses its shine for me,” he said. “If that hasn’t happened by now, I don’t think it ever will.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: singer-songwriter Greg Trooper
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, 780 Waupelani Drive Extension, State College
  • Info: uufcc.com/music/upcoming-untangled-strings-concerts
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