The blues and gospel of Robin O’Herin
Robin O’Herin moves around. She has taken her blues and gospel – along with that of her heroes – around the world.
“I’ve toured Europe, Norway, Italy, the Czech Republic and various regions of the United States,” she said.
A guitar player, O’Herin’s earliest influences were those of Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson and the folk records her mother favored: musicians like Joan Baez, Odetta and Pete Seeger. She has served as song leader in several churches and led a traditional gospel choir. She also has performed Appalachian gospel, blues and original music throughout New England in churches, coffee houses and festivals.
Due to a fairly recent illness, O’Herin has spent the past several years close to her home in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts, “which is closer to Albany than it is to Boston,” she said. Coming through Central Pennsylvania will be part of a minor tour south to Florida and back, all within 10 days.
“I have nine gigs in seven days,” she said. “It’s just a matter of getting my feet wet again in the touring scene and seeing how I hold up,” she laughed.
When O’Herin reaches Florida, it won’t all be traditional gigs; she’ll divide her time between performing, teaching a Delta Blues workshop and putting on a concert for the Americana Community Music Association (ACMA) and putting on a special concert for the sick and disabled kids at the Golisano Children’s Hospital located in Fort Myers, Fla.
O’Herin works closely with Raising the Blues, who in turn works closely with the Golisano Hospitals. It is a relationship that has afforded her the opportunity to teach sick kids how to play guitar. She also works with an organization called Guitars in the Classroom, through which she actually teaches the teachers how to play the guitar and integrate music into their curriculum. The organization may soon call on O’Herin’s special talents, as there are plans to work Delta Blues and bottleneck slide guitar into the program.
O’Herin has shared the stage with Paul Geremia, Andy Cohen and Roy Bookbinder, and has released several CDs like “Red, White and Blues,” and “The Road Home.” When she returns home from her tour, she plans to resume work on a gospel album and an album of blues and originals – both of which have been delayed by her illness.
Another potential holdup O’Herin mentions that will affect all independent artists is the controversial actions taken by BMI and ASCAP (two of the United States’ three major performing rights organizations). While venues that only allowed the performance of original music could previously avoid monthly BMI and ASCAP fees paid by other venues (that allowed covers), the organizations are now loosening their definition of “original” and targeting smaller venues. Venues for which the monthly fee may mean the difference between offering live music and not.
“Venues,” O’Herin said, “who aren’t doing it for the money, but because they love music.”
She holds out hope however, citing the “vibrant house-concert network all across the United States, Canada, even in the U.K.”
Musicians are often fed, lodged and paid everything they earn during their performance, again “because the people that host these performances simply do it for the love of music,” O’Herin said.
It quickly becomes obvious that O’Herin loves her artform and is doing her part to keep it alive and well, especially in a section of the country where it isn’t on every radio station.
“I always feel like there’s more for me to learn,” she said, “I never think I’ve arrived.”
Robin O’Herin will be performing her blues, gospel and folk at 8 p.m. March 18 at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St.
For more information, visit www. bullfrogbrew ery.com. To learn more about Robin O’Herin, buy her CDs, sample her music or contact her, visit www.robinoherin.com. The AMCA can be found online at www. america nacma.org, Raising the Blues at www. raisingthe blues.org, and Guitars in the Classroom at www. guitarsintheclassroom. org. Robin O’Herin’s albums are available on iTunes, Reverbnation and CDBaby.