Singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky at Peterborough Players
Although she’s been constantly on the road for the last several years, performing shows all over the country, it’s been several years since New York City-based singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky has appeared in Peterborough. But she’ll be back on Friday, doing songs from her latest CD, appropriately titled “Reunion,” at a show at the Peterborough Players theater.
The title song tells the story of Kaplansky’s immigrant grandmother, who came from Poland to Toronto, where she founded the Health Bread Bakery chain in the early 20th century.
“It’s based on an informal reunion I had with cousins in Toronto,” Kaplansky said in a phone interview on Tuesday about the song. “The whole album is about reunions, watching my daughter grow and blossom, watching my parents grow old and leave us.”
While Kaplansky’s music crosses many genres, from country to folk to rock, the songwriter, who celebrated her 53rd birthday last week, said her songs are always deeply personal.
“I was inspired by the confessional songwriters of the ’70s,” she said. “Joni Mitchell, people like that. I have a 10-year-old daughter now and I play mostly on weekends. There’s a lot of family themes in my work.”
Kaplansky grew up in Chicago, where her father, mathematician Irving Kaplansky, was a professor at the University of Chicago. She sang in Windy City bars during high school, then left for New York City, where her skill at harmony singing led to her forming a duo with folksinger Shawn Colvin.
“I was singing a lot, but I also went back to school and eventually became a psychologist,” Kaplansky said. She attended Yeshiva University in New York City, eventually earning a doctorate in clinical psychology.
“I had a practice, but then I found I really wanted to sing,” she said. ”So I’m not a psychologist anymore, but I think it made me more perceptive and wise about people. It can’t help but have affected the way I write.”
When she went back to music, Kaplansky reconnected with Colvin, who produced Kaplansky’s first album for Red House Records, “The Tide,” in 1994. That effort drew rave reviews and since then, Kaplansky has recorded six other solo CDs, including “Reunion,” which features musicians who have played with Kaplansky at various times in her career, including Buddy Miller, Richard Shindell, Jonatha Brooke, Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka. Kaplansky was also part of two folk music “supergroups” recording with Shindell and Dar Williams on the album “Cry Cry Cry” and with Gorka and Gilkyson as the group Red Horse.
Friday’s concert will be a solo gig, with Kaplansky playing mostly guitar but also performing on mandolin and piano.
Many of Kaplansky’s songs were co-written with her husband, Richard Litvin, who is a film professor at New York University. Kaplansky said Litvin recently directed her first video, based on her song “Scavenger,” which appears on the new album and is about the journey of an abandoned child refugee.
“I’m very excited about the video and I really want people to see it,” Kaplansky said.
The video is front and center on Kaplansky’s website, lucykaplansky.com.
Friday’s concert will be a split bill that also features singer-songwriter Garnet Rogers. Rogers, a veteran performer, is well-known to area audiences both as a solo performer and from his appearances at the Folkway in Peterborough in the 1970s and early ’80s, when he was in a band with his brother, Canadian songwriter Stan Rogers.
“Garnet is one of my favorite performers,” Kaplansky said. “I love his songs and I’m very excited to see him.”
She’s also looking forward to a reunion with fans in Peterborough. She remembers playing at the Peterborough Players several years ago and at the Folkway in Peterborough when she first started singing.
“That was a long time ago,” she said. “It’s going to be fun to be back.”
Saturday’s show, which is sponsored by the Peterborough Folk Music Society, starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance or $23 on the day of the show. Tickets may be ordered by calling 827-2905 or purchased online at www.pfmsconcerts.org.
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.